SAN JOSE - As expected, Sharks coach Todd McLellan didn't disclose who his starting goalie will be for Game 7 of his team's Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Los Angeles Kings. But his message to both Alex Stalock and Antti Niemi on Tuesday was the same - be ready. Niemi started the first five games of the series, winning the first three as he allowed eight goals. But he was pulled after uneven performances in Games 4 and 5 in favor of Stalock, who made the start for Game 6 and stopped 26 of 30 shots in a 4-1 loss that evened the series at three games each.
"I've never played in a Game 7, and obviously we'll find out later what's going on," Stalock said. "It'd be a lot of fun."
The Kings scored three times in the third period on Monday, including a disputed goal by Justin Williams at 11:56 of a 1-1 game that started San Jose's downward slide. The Sharks thought the play should have been blown dead because Stalock had covered the puck. It was reviewed but the call stood. Williams' goal was the first of three during a span of 2:46 that decided the outcome.
"The puck had to get moved into the net somehow, and it was I guess by force from the players' stick," Stalock said Tuesday of the Kings' second goal in Game 6. "Unless he can see through me, he must have known where the puck was. Now, knowing the rule, the call's over. You can't do anything about it."
McLellan wasn't interested in rehashing the incident Tuesday, saying only, "We're getting ready now to play Game 7. That's in the past, and we'll leave it there."
Niemi had an .882 save percentage and a 3.90 goals against average in the first five games. Stalock has stopped 52 of 56 shots in three games for a .929 save percentage.
"Even if you don't get the start, I think you have to be ready," Stalock said. "Anything can happen, whether it's sickness or injury. Every game, you have to be ready."
n McLellan liked the way Matt Irwin played in Game 6, as the 26-year-old defenseman - making his first playoff start in place of the injured Marc-Edouard Vlasic - was paired with Dan Boyle and had 18:43 of ice time.
"He's been sitting on the sidelines, champing at the bit to get in, and it's not an easy game to come in to," McLellan said of Irwin. "Being on the road in that environment, and the intensity and pace of the game, it's a little different than games 78 through 82 when things are basically locked down. But he did a very good job, and I thought our D handled itself well for a lot of the game."
Irwin had 19 points in 62 regular-season games this season and played in all 11 playoff games for the Sharks last year.
"I felt pretty comfortable," Irwin said of Game 6. "First shift, you try and make it quick, get your legs under you, make a play, take a bump, make a hit, those kind of things. Other than that, I felt fresh, felt good. Just try to build off it."
There wasn't much news on Vlasic, who did not skate again Tuesday. McLellan said Vlasic is getting treatments, "and when he's better, he'll play." n The lack of power play goals is hardly the biggest of the Sharks' problems going into Game 7. But any contributions San Jose can get from the now-beleaguered unit could go a long way in turning the deciding game in its favor.
Despite a number of golden opportunities, the Sharks are 0 for 9 with the man advantage over the past two games. In that same span, the Kings have converted 2 of 8 power play chances.
The Sharks were 0 for 4 on the power play in Game 6, which included a 1:37 two-man advantage early in the second period when San Jose was down 1-0. The Sharks came up empty in that situation and on another two-minute power play shortly after.
"It's going to be there," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We have a confident group, and we're confident with the five guys that we put out there, we change the game and score some goals."
Besides Vlasic, Raffi Torres and Patrick Marleau did not skate Tuesday.