Amid goalie questions, Sharks look to finish off Kings in Game 6 

click to enlarge Sharks goalie Antti Niemi has been pulled from the past two games against the Kings, both losses. - CHRIS CARLSON/AP
  • Chris Carlson/AP
  • Sharks goalie Antti Niemi has been pulled from the past two games against the Kings, both losses.

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks started their playoff run with a chance to sweep the Los Angeles Kings, but after back-to-back losses in which coach Todd McLellan pulled his starting goalie, they find themselves heading to a Game 6 today in the home of the team that eliminated them from Stanley Cup contention last year.

In Game 5 on Saturday night, McLellan pulled goalie Antti Niemi immediately after the Kings scored 22 seconds into the second period, giving Los Angeles a 3-0 lead that held up for the remainder of the game and narrowed San Jose's series lead to 3-2.

While the Sharks led the series 3-0, McLellan said "playing with mulligans" could mean trouble for his team. When a reporter referenced the comment to Dan Boyle, the defenseman responded with irritation and initial reluctance to answer.

"You think we went out there and said, 'Hey guys, we've got three more cracks at this?' I can't believe that's a question," Boyle said. "No, we did not."

McLellan, who called his team's performance "red rotten" in Game 5, didn't comment much on why he pulled Niemi in the past two games, but acknowledged the reasons weren't tied solely to the goalie.

Niemi, who has given up eight goals the past two games, said he was "not really" worried about starting Game 6, but admitted the last two games haven't been easy for him.

"We try our best and we give up too many goals and I get pulled, so it's tough for sure," he said.

Alex Stalock, who replaced Niemi, said the switch was also done "hopefully to try to shake things up a little bit."

Sharks center Joe Pavelski said the last two losses might appear to be Niemi's fault, but that "a lot of the guys in this room have to take responsibility."

The only thought of any major concern for the Sharks leading the series 3-2 is because they won the first three, according to Dan Rusanowsky, voice of the team since its inception in 1991.

Los Angeles eliminated the Sharks from the playoffs last year, but the Sharks beat the Kings in the first round in 2011. The way this series is playing out reflects the teams are "absolutely dead even," Rusanowsky said.

He added that teams have come back to win a series after being down 3-0 only three times since the National Hockey League made round one a seven-game series in 1939.

"What's ironic about that is there are two players on the Kings roster that were on the team that did it most recently in 2010 [the Philadelphia Flyers]," Rusanowsky said. "[Jeff] Carter and [Mike] Richards."

The other two occasions were in 1942 and 1975.

Like his teammates and coach, Boyle acknowledged the Kings are a "very good hockey team."

"They weren't going to roll over and die and they played well," he said. "We've just got to go out there and win a game."

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

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Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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