A few days ago I wrote about how nearly impossible it is for an NHL team to win a series in which they trail by three games to none. I also noted in the article that despite such a comeback being so rare, it’s not insane to think a team can win four straight games. Four. That’s it. Every team that’s qualified for the postseason has at some point during the regular season, won four games in a row.
The San Jose Sharks held a commanding 3-0 lead in their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Kings. But they say the fourth win is the hardest to earn, which is certainly proving true for the Sharks.
The Los Angeles Kings won Game 4, 6-3, on home-ice at the Staples Center. L. A. won Game 5, 3-0 last evening in San Jose, a building where few teams are able to beat the host Sharks.
The Kings are back in the series, trailing three games to two. Hardly an insurmountable deficit to overcome. What was once a need to rattled off four straight wins against one of the best teams in the National Hockey League has simply become an opportunity to join a short list of clubs to have erased a 3-0 series deficit. And all the Kings need to do to achieve franchise history, and become only the fourth team in seventy-plus years to pull off such a remarkable comeback, is win two straight.
The Sharks were involved in a series with a similar storyline not so long ago.
In the first-round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, the San Jose Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Detroit Red Wings. But the Wings, being recent Cup winners (at the time) with pride, stormed back to tie the series at three wins apiece before heading to San Jose for Game 7. The Sharks won the series in the final hour, but they were so close to letting it slip from their grasp.
Game 6 in Los Angeles is a big one. It’s hard to end the season of a recent Cup champion, which is what the Kings are, having won the Cup in 2012. One year ago the Kings were eliminated in the Conference finals by the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Coming back from 3-0 down is extremely rare. Even when a team forces Game 7 after losing the first three games of a series, that team rarely wins the final contest. In 2011, the Blackhawks erased a 3-0 series deficit against the Vancouver Canucks, but the latter won the seventh game on home ice, in overtime. So close.
Only thrice has an NHL team pulled it off — won four straight after losing the opening three games of a series.
In 1942, the Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings in seven, after losing Games 1, 2 and 3.
The Islanders did in the Penguins in 1975 after going down by three to begin the series.
And the 2010 Bruins lost four straight against the Flyers after beginning the series with three straight wins.
At 3-0 for the Sharks, the series looked to be over. At 3-1, it seemed like San Jose had an off-night against a desperate team, but they’d close it out at home in Game 5. With the series 3-2, though, it’s harder to be so sure San Jose’s got control of this thing anymore. All the Kings need to do is keep exuding that winner’s confidence while deploying that champion-like work ethic they’re famous for.
San Jose Sharks defenceman Marc-Eduoard Vlasic left last night’s game early with injury. According to NHL.com, Vlasic was unable to return after receiving a shot to the head by Kings’ forward Jarred Stoll. There is no word on Vlasic’s status for Game 6.