LOS ANGELES (AP) — Justin Williams and Marian Gaborik scored two goals apiece, and the Los Angeles Kings emphatically avoided first-round playoff elimination with a 6-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 on Thursday night.
Captain Dustin Brown had a goal and an assist, and Tyler Toffoli scored on his 22nd birthday during a three-goal second period as the Kings dodged a series sweep with a one-sided win that could plant a seed of doubt in their dominant California rivals’ minds.
Game 5 is Saturday in San Jose.
Jonathan Quick made 36 saves for Los Angeles, which chased Sharks goalie Antti Niemi on Gaborik’s beautiful goal early in the third period.
James Sheppard, Matt Nieto and Joe Pavelski scored for the Sharks, who couldn’t finish off the second playoff sweep in franchise history.
The Kings were outscored 13-5 in the first two games at the Shark Tank before losing Game 3 in overtime, but the back-to-back Western Conference finalists finally produced a strong two-way performance when they faced an early playoff exit.
After three scoreless games, Brown had a key early assist and an empty-net goal for Los Angeles, which got points from 12 players in Game 4 after just 10 Kings scored in the first three games combined.
Williams got his first two goals of the postseason after dropping off the Kings’ top line, matching his two-goal second period last year during Game 7 of Los Angeles’ second-round victory over the Sharks.
Gaborik has three goals in his first four playoff games with the Kings, who are getting what they sought when they acquired the Slovak star from Columbus last month.
The Kings won another high-intensity edition of the rivals’ third postseason series in four years. The final minute was marred by more goonery and shenanigans, including a wild fight between San Jose’s Brent Burns and Los Angeles’ Robyn Regehr after the final buzzer.
Los Angeles shuffled its top line for Game 4, putting Gaborik and Brown, who hadn’t scored in the series, alongside center Anze Kopitar. The changes paid off just 4:08 in when Brown pushed the puck down the wing and flung it in front for Gaborik.
San Jose evened it with 7.3 seconds left in the period, finishing a dominant offensive shift with Sheppard’s first goal in 21 career playoff games on a rebound in front.
Williams put the Kings back ahead on a power-play goal aided by Mike Richards, with both veteran forwards scoring their first points of the series. The Sharks pulled even again on Nieto’s chip shot off defenseman Alec Martinez’s shoulder.
Instead of deflating, the Kings kept pushing. After Williams reclaimed the lead by tucking in a long rebound off the end boards, Toffoli swept home a loose puck that deflected off Andrew Desjardins’ glove in the final minute of the period, sending Los Angeles into the third with a standing ovation.
Alex Stalock made several big saves in his NHL playoff debut after relieving Niemi.
Williams thought he had completed a hat trick with 8:50 to play, but his goal was waved off due to a cross-checking penalty on Jarret Stoll in front of the Sharks’ net an instant earlier. Pavelski scored on a rebound moments later during the power play.
NOTES: Nieto, a Long Beach native, scored in both games at Staples Center against his favorite childhood team. … Sheppard was the 12th Sharks player to score a goal in the series. … The Kings haven’t been swept in a playoff series since 2000. San Jose earned its only sweep in the first round against Vancouver last spring. … Pau Gasol and Larry David watched the game from seats on the glass.