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Sharks smell blood in the water

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POSTED April 23, 2014 11:33 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Thornton and the Sharks have been in command of many playoff series over the past decade. The San Jose captain has also seen just how easily control slips away during nine straight postseason trips without raising the Stanley Cup.

That’s why the Sharks are both comfortable and concerned with a chance to finish off the reeling Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the first round on Thursday night.

“Don’t give us a passing grade yet, because we’re still taking the test,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Wednesday after a mellow skate.

After so many years of playoff disappointments, the Sharks are one win away from kicking off their latest postseason run with quite a sweeping statement.

Not even the Sharks themselves thought they could outskate, outhit and thoroughly outplay the Kings, whose own postseason credentials are unquestioned after their title run just two years ago. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and the NHL’s best defensive team have been shredded for 17 goals by the Sharks’ balanced lines.

The Sharks got in position to eliminate the 2012 champs and their biggest rivals with a 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Patrick Marleau’s fourth career overtime-winning goal, matching Jaromir Jagr for the most among active players.

“We’re a confident group right now, and hopefully we can show that (in Game 4),” Thornton said. “(Game 3) could have gone either way. We know how close it is.”

Starting with the franchise’s first trip to the Western Conference finals in 2004, the Sharks have won 10 playoff series and made the conference finals three times. San Jose has missed the playoffs just once since 1997, right before Marleau joined the club.

But one more victory would clinch just the second series sweep in Sharks history, joining last season’s first-round whitewash of Vancouver.

“We’re coming to win and finish them in Game 4,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “You can’t give a team like the L.A. Kings any life. They’re going to come to play.”

The Kings regrouped after two embarrassments at the Shark Tank to open the series, playing two solid periods to open Game 3 before surrendering 23 shots and a lead in the third. Los Angeles also played well in overtime, but lost on the Sharks’ first shot of extra time.

The Kings realize they’ll need every bit of their playoff experience to pull off an unlikely comeback.

“We’re going to come out and throw everything at them,” Anze Kopitar said.

The Kings haven’t trailed 0-3 in a playoff series since 2000, and only three teams in NHL history have rallied from that deficit to win a series. Los Angeles forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were with the Flyers in 2010  when Philadelphia rallied from three games down to beat Boston.

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