LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Although Trevor Lewis knows all about post-season heroics after scoring two goals in a Stanley Cup-clinching victory last season, even he was a bit overwhelmed by the Los Angeles Kings' latest spectacular playoff feat.
With three minutes left, the San Jose Sharks appeared to be cruising toward a well-deserved win. After two penalties and two dynamic power-play goals, including the winner from Lewis, the Kings were halfway to the Western Conference finals.
"I almost passed out on the celebration," Lewis said. "I got a little light-headed. To score a big goal in the playoffs is what you dream about."
Captain Dustin Brown tied it with 1:43 left and Lewis scored on a rebound 22 seconds later, propelling the defending Stanley Cup champions to a 4-3 victory Thursday night and a 2-0 series lead.
Brown scored during a 5-on-3 advantage and Lewis provided the winner on a loose puck with 1:21 left, sending Staples Center into shocked celebration. Nobody could believe it—not even the Kings, really.
"It's huge, I guess," Brown said. "Two minutes left, down one, it's about capitalizing. The power play is about scoring big goals, and we found a way to do that. We're happy with the result, but we have to play better. We can't let it get to that situation every night."
The Kings won their 12th straight home game since March and their sixth straight post-season game, but only after getting outplayed for long stretches and needing late-game magic to thrive.
That's why the Kings didn't celebrate much: They know it's asking too much to expect similar luck in Game 3 on Saturday night at the Shark Tank.
"We realize it wasn't our best effort, but sometimes good teams win when they don't deserve it, too," said centre Anze Kopitar, who spent part of the third period in the dressing room after getting hit in the face by Brown's shot. "We pulled it off. Next time, we want to make sure we're not in a position like this."
Jeff Carter scored on the Kings' first shot and added an assist on Brown's goal. Drew Doughty scored an early power-play goal for Los Angeles, which didn't really get rolling until the third period after San Jose largely dominated for 40 minutes.
Los Angeles already was playing without centre Jarret Stoll, out after an illegal hit to the head in the opener from San Jose's Raffi Torres, who was suspended for the series. The Kings missed Stoll most in the faceoff circle, where the Sharks won 68 per cent of the draws.
But with two late goals, the Kings landed one of the most amazing victories in their relatively thin playoff history, and put the Sharks on the edge of yet another post-season spiral for a sublimely talented team that has never quite got it all together in the playoffs.
"We found a way," Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. "You know what? The power play was on. We've been talking about it. We've been getting good looks and good opportunities and not finishing, and we got it from different guys."
Jonathan Quick made 28 saves for the Kings, tying Kelly Hrudey's franchise record with his 26th career playoff victory. Antti Niemi stopped 27 shots for the Sharks, but was powerless to stop the Kings' power play late.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored his first career playoff goal with 11:04 to play for the Sharks, who were doomed by their late penalties after rallying from an early two-goal deficit. Coach Todd McLellan left his team alone in the dressing room afterward.
"I liked our game," McLellan said. "We'll meet (Friday) at the rink, and I'll tell our team that. The thing I like about our team, maybe in the past, this would have bothered our team more, but with the group of guys we have, I think we can recover from this."
Patrick Marleau and Brad Stuart scored second-period goals for the Sharks, who largely dominated the first two periods with another barrage of superior speed and skill. None of it mattered when the Kings charged ahead.
"We've got to put it behind us," said Stuart, who had a goal and an assist. "There's two ways for us to respond. We can either fold up and say, 'Oh, at least we tried,' or we can say, 'You know what? We can win.'
"I think 5-on-5, we were the better team. We keep doing those kinds of things, we'll get our wins. That's what we have to do. We have to respond in that way. We're being tested, and it's about how we're going to respond. The key for us is to come out and do a lot of the same things we were doing tonight."
After Vlasic's score on a rebound of Stuart's shot off the end boards, the Sharks seemed to be cruising to a win—until Stuart was whistled for tripping with 2:41 to play. Just 22 seconds later, Vlasic joined him in the box when he shot the puck over the glass, although Vlasic claimed the puck had deflected off Carter.
The Kings scored 36 seconds later, with Brown pounding home his second goal of the post-season. Lewis got the winner shortly after the ensuing faceoff, finding a loose puck on the back side of a scrum in front of Niemi after a drive to the net and a shot by rookie Tyler Toffoli.
Torres was suspended for the rest of the series Thursday after a hearing in New York by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his illegal check to Stoll's head. Brad Richardson contributed a key power-play assist while filling in for Stoll.
Los Angeles has won six straight home playoff games dating to last season's Stanley Cup clincher, but none was more surprising than this victory. The Sharks appeared to be sure Quick couldn't steal another win after the Kings took the opener despite getting outshot 35-20.
Quick's streak of more than 125 minutes of shutout hockey ended in the second period with two quick San Jose goals. Vlasic then gave San Jose its first lead with a rebound goal on Stuart's shot off the end boards midway through the period, capping a lengthy scramble near Quick's net. Vlasic didn't score a goal in his first 73 career playoff games.
NOTES: Sharks F Adam Burish sat out his second straight game after playing in all four games against Vancouver. He was replaced again by Bracken Kearns. Havlat hasn't played since the playoff opener in Vancouver while nursing a lower-body injury. ... Richardson hadn't played since the Kings' playoff opener against St. Louis on April 30. He appeared in just 16 regular-season games. ... Quick hadn't allowed a goal since early in the second period of the Kings' series-clinching win over St. Louis six days earlier.
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