LOS ANGELES — The Sharks had just blown a three-goal lead in a potential series-clinching playoff game. Staples Center rocked with the combined power of the Kings’ rally and the looming specters of San Jose’s post-season failures.
Joonas Donskoi wasn’t around for any of that tawdry teal history, and the tenacious rookie scored the goal that sent the Sharks roaring into the second round.
Donskoi broke a tie with his second goal early in the third period, and the Sharks charged back to wrap up their first-round playoff series with a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 on Friday night.
Chris Tierney and Matt Nieto scored early goals and Joe Pavelski got another late score for the Sharks, who stared down the ghosts of their past playoff failures against Los Angeles and advanced to the second round for just the second time since 2011.
The Sharks had to overcome more than the current Kings, who looked outclassed for most of the series. San Jose has an unpleasant history against its downstate rivals, who rallied from an 0-3 series deficit to eliminate the Sharks in humiliating fashion in 2014.
“I’m sure for some guys, they felt like we exorcized some demons tonight,” said San Jose coach Peter DeBoer, also a rookie in teal. “For the group in general, it was a well-earned victory. To win three games in this building is a great testament to the character of our group.”
The Sharks didn’t do it easily. San Jose led 3-0 early in the second period of Game 5 before the Kings scored three goals in nine electric minutes.
But after Donskoi jumped on a rebound and broke the tie with the second playoff goal of his rookie season with 16:02 to play, Pavelski added his fifth goal of the series and the Sharks cruised.
“Of course we were disappointed with what happened in the second period,” said Donskoi, the 24-year-old Finn. “We tried to forget that. The game was still tied, and we had a chance to beat LA.”
Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Kris Versteeg scored for the Kings, who won only Game 3 in overtime in this series after eliminating the Sharks in 2013 and 2014. Their run at a third Stanley Cup title in five years ended abruptly, with losses in all three of their home playoff games.
And the Sharks left little doubt that this California rivalry is heated after four post-season series meetings in six years.
“Throughout the last couple of years, things have been said by players on that team that to me, personally, I take it as disrespectful,” said Logan Couture, who had three assists. “So it was nice to stick it back to them and beat them in this series. Even this series, someone was saying on their team that they had us right where they wanted us. I wonder if they’ve got us where they want us right now? So it was nice to beat them.”
Martin Jones made 19 saves, Brent Burns had three assists and Melker Karlsson added an empty-net goal for the Sharks, who will next face the winner of the Anaheim Ducks’ series with the Nashville Predators. The clubs are even heading to Game 5 in Anaheim on Saturday.
Jonathan Quick stopped 22 shots while losing to his former backup again.
The loss was a disheartening finish for the playoff-tested Kings, who won two titles and 10 post-season series from 2012-14. After missing the playoffs entirely last spring, Los Angeles returned with renewed energy and reigned atop the Pacific Division for most of this season, but blew the division title in its final home game before getting bounced by the Sharks.
“It’s definitely disappointing (after) how hard we worked in the season to clinch a (playoff) spot as fast as we could, that we didn’t make the most of it,” said Milan Lucic, a free agent this summer. “We can make excuses all we want … but we didn’t play the right way when we needed to”
Nieto made it 3-0 early in the second period for San Jose. The lead could have been even bigger, but the Sharks failed to score during a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:45, and Patrick Marleau couldn’t score on a penalty shot.
The Kings finally awoke when Drew Doughty’s shot ricocheted off Dwight King and Kopitar midway through the second. Carter got his second goal of the series a few minutes later, and Versteeg tied it with his first playoff goal for his new team, batting home a rebound of Kyle Clifford’s shot off the post.
“We didn’t deserve to win this series,” Kopitar said.
NOTES: The game might have been the last in the NHL career of Vincent Lecavalier, the former No. 1 pick and Richard Trophy winner who has said he will retire this summer. Lecavalier, who turned 36 years old Thursday, has been largely outstanding after a midseason trade from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, leading to speculation he might consider returning for an 18th NHL season. Lecavalier declined comment on his future. … 2014 playoff hero Alec Martinez missed his fourth straight game of the series with an undisclosed injury.