SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Anze Kopitar scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period and Jonathan Quick made 39 saves to cap the Los Angeles Kings’ historic comeback from three games down with a 5-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of their first-round series Wednesday night
Drew Doughty, Tyler Toffoli, Dustin Brown and Tanner Pearson also scored for the Kings, who became the fourth NHL team to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.
The Kings joined Toronto (1942), the New York Islanders (1975) and Philadelphia (2010) as the only teams to complete that comeback and now will get another California showdown in the second-round with the first Freeway Playoff against the Anaheim Ducks.
Matt Irwin scored the lone goal and Antti Niemi made 25 saves for the Sharks, who added perhaps their most bitter playoff disappointment to a history of them. San Jose has the second most regular-season wins in the NHL the past 10 seasons but has never made it past the conference finals.
The way the Sharks started this series by outscoring the Kings 17-8 to win the first three games, it looked as if this could finally be their year.
But Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the rest of their stars went mostly missing the final four games, the power play could not convert on its final 15 chances and the defense made too many lapses, leading to their second straight Game 7 loss to their California rivals.
The Sharks took their first lead since Game 3 in the opening minute of the second when Irwin’s point shot beat Quick through a screen to provide a jolt to the crowd that only got bigger when San Jose drew a penalty less than a minute later.
But a hooking call on Tommy Wingels negated that power play and Logan Couture then got called for an elbowing penalty, giving Los Angeles a two-man advantage for 6 seconds. Before Wingels could get back into the play, Doughty tied it when he beat Niemi from the faceoff circle.
The Sharks had three more power plays in the second period to give them a chance to go back ahead but Los Angeles killed every one of them with Quick robbing Marleau with a glove save on the goal line to thwart San Jose’s best chance.
That save was emblematic of a remarkable turnaround this series for Quick, who allowed 16 goals the first three games but held the Sharks to just five over the final four wins.
The Kings responded after the fourth penalty kill when last year’s Game 7 hero Justin Williams found Kopitar, who made a nifty move to beat Niemi with a backhand to give him points in all seven games this series.
Toffoli’s goal in the opening minutes of the third period off a pretty no-look feed from Pearson gave the Kings insurance and they tightened things up the rest of the way to seal the win.
Brown and Pearson added empty-netters late to seal the win.
NOTES: The Kings became the fifth team to beat the same opponent in Game 7 in consecutive seasons. … Both teams were without a key defenseman as San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury and Willie Mitchell was out for Los Angeles after getting hurt in Game 6.
Game 1 Kings at Anaheim Saturday, May 3 5 p.m.
Game 2 Kings at Anaheim Monday, May 5 7 p.m.
Game 3 Anaheim at Kings Thursday, May 8 7 p.m.
Game 4 Anaheim at Kings Saturday, May 10 TBD
Game 5 * Kings at Anaheim Monday, May 12 TBD
Game 6 * Anaheim at Kings Wednesday, May 14 TBD
Game 7 * Kings at Anaheim Friday, May 16 TBD