LOS ANGELES -- Two power-play goals by the Los Angeles Kings 22 seconds apart with less than two minutes to play turned a bad day for the Sharks into a miserable one.
First, the NHL suspended left wing Raffi Torres for the rest of this series. Then, after their offense finally came to life with three goals against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, San Jose lost 4-3 Thursday night to fall behind in their Western Conference semifinal series 0-2.
And to make matters worse, the penalty that put San Jose two men down before the Kings mounted their comeback -- a delay-of-game call against Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 17:41 -- was considered a dubious call in the Sharks locker room, though replays were inconclusive.
"Pickles' clearing attempt hits (Jeff) Carter in the shoulder, goes out of play, and they call it a penalty. That's tough," Logan Couture said. "You could see it from the bench."
Neither Vlasic nor coach Todd McLellan would address the issue directly, though both seemed to indicate they were not pleased with the penalty that led to the late goals by Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis.
"You go back and look at it, it looks like it changed direction," McLellan said. "It's not going to do me any good to get up here and whine and moan about the refereeing because it's not going to get us anywhere. We took some penalties, we needed to kill them, and we move on."
Despite the late loss, McLellan and his players liked the fact they were able to get to Quick on goals by Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart and Vlasic. At even strength, San Jose outscored Los Angeles 3-1 -- another good sign.
"I liked our game," McLellan said. "We'll meet tomorrow at the rink, and I'll tell our team that. And the thing I like about our team -- maybe in the past this would have bothered our group more. But with the group of guys we have now, I think we can recover from this."
Earlier in the day, the NHL ruled that Torres' hit on Kings center Jarret Stoll late in the second period of Game 1 warranted a ban for the rest of this series, however long it lasted.
McLellan responded by moving Joe Pavelski into Torres' spot at left wing on a line with Couture and Marleau, then moving Scott Gomez up from the fourth line into Pavelski's role as third-line center.
As they did Tuesday night, the Kings took a 2-0 lead, this time on a goal by Carter at 3:06 of the first period on Los Angeles' first shot of the game and a Drew Doughty power-play tally at 4:10 of the second.
But unlike Game 1, this time the Sharks were able to get to Quick.
It took until 9:47 of the middle period, but Marleau ended the drought with an easy redirect into an open net after some slick passing by Couture and Joe Thornton.
Then at 14:21, Stuart took a pass from Gomez and launched a 50-foot slap shot that a screened Quick never saw, drawing the Sharks even at 2-2 going into the third period.
And when Vlasic crashed the net to punch in a rebound off the back boards of a shot by Stuart at 8:56 of the third, things were going San Jose's way.
But the problems started with the Kings applying pressure late in the third period and Stuart taking a tripping call during a scramble in front of the net at 17:19. Twenty-two seconds later, Vlasic had a chance to clear the puck, it went over the glass, and the call went against San Jose.
Brown scored at 18:17 after Mike Richards put a shot on goal and goalie Antti Niemi couldn't cover the puck. Then at 18:39, Lewis scored after an initial shot by Tyler Toffoli to send the Staples Center crowd into a frenzy.
McLellan may have liked his team's effort, but he's also a realist and knows what lies ahead.
"Guys played their hearts out, but again, that doesn't get you wins in the playoffs," he said. "Scoring more than the other team does, and we're going to have to do that."