LOS ANGELES -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan doesn’t usually mince words in the moments after a tough loss. He stayed true to form Monday night after the Sharks were defeated in Game 6 of their Western Conference quarterfinal 4-1 to the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.
“We got cheated, simple as that,” he said.
McLellan was referring to the tie-breaking goal by Kings right wing Justin Williams with just over eight minutes left in the game, which opened the gates for two more back-breaking goals down the stretch. Now the Sharks own the distinction of being the ninth NHL team to lose three straight games after taking a 3-0 series lead.
On the play in question, Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr shot the puck through traffic and into the pads of Sharks goalie Alex Stalock, who had trouble finding it beneath him. Williams, who was battling with a San Jose defender in front of the net, shoved the blade of his stick between the pads of Stalock, causing Stalock and the puck to slide backward in the crease.
San Jose defenseman Matt Irwin tried to save the puck from crossing the goal line, but seemed to inadvertently push it across. After a brief review, the goal was counted and all the momentum tumbled to the side of Los Angeles.
“I was told that you could see the puck laying behind his feet the whole time,” McLellan said. “That was obviously the turning point.”
Stalock, making his first start of the series in place of Antti Niemi, who had struggled in the previous two losses against the Kings, was more agitated with the contact that occurred between he and Williams.
“I don't think the puck goes in if I wasn't pushed in,” Stalock said.
Williams, who also scored in the first period for the Kings, said he was prepared to have the goal disallowed.
“If they decided not to count it, fine,” he said. “Maybe we got a break, maybe we didn’t.”
The Kings and Sharks have a history of feeling cheated when they play each other. Two years ago, former Sharks forward Ryane Clowe used his stick to break up a rush by the Kings -- while he was on the bench late in regulation of a tied game -- and the Sharks went on to win in a shootout in a contest that carried playoff-seeding implications.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who surrendered 16 goals in the first three games of the series but only one in the last two, remembers that game well. The Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup that season while the Sharks were knocked out by the St. Louis Blues in the first round.
With all that has happened in the rivalry over the years, Quick said going back to San Jose for Game 7 won’t be any different than going back there for Game 5 last week.
“We didn’t need game 5 to prove we could win there,” he said. “We knew that. We needed Game 5 to play Game 6.”