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San Jose Sharks even series with second win on home ice


Los Angeles Kings centre Colin Fraser is hit into San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi by Andrew Desjardins (10) during Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference semifinal in San Jose, May 21, 2013. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

Los Angeles Kings centre Colin Fraser is hit into San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi by Andrew Desjardins (10) during Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference semifinal in San Jose, May 21, 2013. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)



The San Jose Sharks aren’t going away.

Unfortunately, they have to go back to L.A. now.

Thanks to Tuesday’s 2-1 home-ice win over the Los Angeles Kings in a performance that will surely have the rest of the hockey world talking, the Sharks took care of business in back-to-back outings at HP Pavilion and have evened up their best-of-seven set with the defending Stanley Cup champions at two wins apiece.

The action now shifts back to Staples Center for Thursday’s Game 5.

“You could feel it when we left L.A. on the plane after Game 2 — we were ready to get back to work,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “We’re going to swing the bat when we’re up there.”

They’re swinging alright, and suddenly this Western Conference semifinal is turning into a slugfest.

The Sharks and Kings were two of the NHL’s most effective home teams during the regular season, so it’s really no surprise this series is knotted after a couple of clashes in each rink.

What is surprising — maybe even shocking for some — is the way its unfolded.

Truth be told, the Sharks should be leading this series 3-1.

The Kings, confident as they are, must realize that. They still have home-ice advantage and have won a dozen straight games at Staples Center, but it’s become clear their upstate rivals won’t be easily bounced.

For all the talk over the past couple of days about the emergence of centre Logan Couture, who scored again Tuesday, and the evolution of San Jose’s leadership group, Joe Thornton was the best player on the ice in Game 4.

The 6-foot-4 pivot dangled and out-muscled a team that prides itself on not being out-muscled by anybody.

Thornton finished with just one assist, but he was a factor in both of San Jose’s goals and — to the surprise of nobody — was named the first star.

“It’s the best I’ve seen him play. I don’t know what he had for pre-game meal today but I hope he has it again in a couple of days,” said winger T.J. Galiardi. “He was flying. And it’s so contagious. When Jumbo’s going, everybody is going.”

With their broad-shouldered captain showing the way, the Sharks were nothing short of dominant early on.

The hosts were credited with almost twice as many hits as the Kings in the first period, holding a 21-12 edge in that category.

They won almost three times as many faceoffs, posting an eye-popping 73% success rate at the dot.

And they fired five times as much rubber, unloading 15 shots before the first intermission — including Brent Burns’ opening goal — and allowing just three at their own end.

The Kings still seemed to be stuck in their pre-game nap early in the second period, when Couture deflected Boyle’s point-shot on the power play to give the Sharks a two-goal edge. The goal was originally credited to Boyle and a second assist to Thornton, but ‘Jumbo Joe’ was bumped from the official equation when replays proved Couture put a little English on the puck in front of Jonathan Quick.

What will give the Kings some confidence as they return home is the way they responded in the third period, firing 14 shots at Sharks netminder Antti Niemi and finally showing glimpses of the type of team they have been at times in this post-season.

Mike Richards made things interesting with a power-play goal near the midway point, but that’s as close as it would get.

“You’ve got prepare, get ready for the drop of the puck. It was 1-0 before we even knew what was going on out there,” Richards sighed. “A loss is a loss. You can chop it up any way you want. It’s 2-2 going back home. Obviously, it would have been nice to get one here, but we’re going home. We’re comfortable there.

“We have to put together a full 60 minutes, which we haven’t done for a while.”

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson

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