EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Kings goalie Jonathan Quick sometimes seems to be the only obstacle between San Jose and the Western Conference finals while the Sharks dominate much of their 2-2 series with the defending Stanley Cup champions.
And if Quick needed any extra motivation to stop the Sharks again in the pivotal Game 5 on Thursday night, TJ Galiardi provided it.
Galiardi accused the Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie of exaggerating contact with opposing players Wednesday, claiming Quick attempts to draw undeserved penalties.
"What kind of bugs me about him, I don't know if I should say it, but a little embellishment every now and then," Galiardi said after the Sharks' workout in San Jose. "You skate by and you don't even touch him, or you barely even touch him, and he's throwing his hands in the air. So that's one of those things. It's playoffs. Everyone is trying to draw a penalty. Whatever."
Galiardi apparently was displeased by Quick's reaction to an encounter during the Sharks' 2-1 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday night, with Quick fruitlessly arguing for an interference call after Galiardi made contact with him. Galiardi's comments added even more spice to this lively series heading back to Staples Center, where the Kings have won 12 straight games since March.
"The thing is, with video, something we like to say around here is, 'Ball don't lie,'" Galiardi said. "It's an old basketball term, but when you watch the video, the video doesn't lie. So I'm skating by and I barely touch him, and he's throwing his hands in the air. It's kind of one of those things. He looks bad on video, not me."
Galiardi has never scored a playoff goal in his five-year NHL career, so he's hardly the most likely candidate to challenge Quick's post-season sportsmanship. Quick wasn't in the Kings' dressing room after practice at their training complex Wednesday.
The Los Angeles goalie turned in one of the most dominant playoff performances in recent hockey history for the Kings last year before following it up with another stellar post-season effort this spring. After holding St. Louis to 10 goals in the six-game first round, Quick has allowed just seven goals in four games against San Jose, stopping 122 of 129 shots in an otherwise frequently one-sided series.
Quick clearly hasn't the problem during the Kings' difficult defence, which now includes as many playoff losses as they took during the entire 2012 post-season. After consecutive 2-1 losses in San Jose, the Kings clearly haven't backed up their star goalie's efforts with consistent goal-scoring from their stars or contributions from all four lines, the offensive hallmarks of last season's surge to the franchise's first title.
"Recently, we all haven't done the necessary things to score goals in the playoffs," said first-line right wing Justin Williams, who has two goals in the post-season. "It's pure broken record is all it is. Scorers have got to score. If they don't score, they've got to create more offence. We've been outplayed so far, top line to top line, I feel in this series. We're a proud bunch, but it's still 2-2. We're still in a good spot."
Los Angeles has scored just one goal apiece in five of its 10 playoff games, and the Kings have managed just two even-strength goals in the last three games against San Jose. The Kings' putative top line is struggling mightily: Captain Dustin Brown has just two goals—both on power plays—in the playoffs, and leading scorer Anze Kopitar has just one goal while getting outplayed by San Jose's Joe Thornton.
"There's a fine line between desperation and panic, and I'm thinking the guys we have in here will be a desperate group," said Kings defenceman Rob Scuderi, a two-time Stanley Cup winner. "But we're not going to do anything out of the ordinary or try to do it ourselves. ... We were down 2-0 in the St. Louis series. I know it's not as easy as everyone thinks it was last year, being up 3-0 in every series, but we have a good mentality in here, and we're trying to stay upbeat and confident, and realize our best 60 minutes are ahead of us."
The Kings figure they're due to break out of their offensive skid, but Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter also is contemplating line switches to create more offence, shuffling the mix in practice Wednesday. Los Angeles has spent much of the series barely surviving against San Jose's forecheck and high-volume offence, frequently pinned in its own end for long stretches of all four games, particularly in the opening period.
"We've got to come out and have a great start," Kings defenceman Robyn Regehr said. "That's where it all needs to be focused for us. Just come out and have a good start, play the way we know we can right off the bat, and go from there."
The Sharks are radiating confidence with two straight wins following Los Angeles' late heist of Game 2 with two power-play goals in the waning seconds. San Jose is two wins away from its third conference finals appearance in four years, but only if the Sharks manage to crack the Kings' formidable advantage at Staples Center.
"They're a great team. They're the champs," Thornton said. "They've been good on home ice all year, but we feel like our game is getting better and better, and each series keeps getting better. I don't know if there's an advantage or not. It's just we've got to go into L.A. now and win one."
While the Kings' sellout crowds can be tough, the Sharks are confident they can pick up right where they left off with a few minutes to go in Game 2 before Los Angeles' electric comeback.
"They stick around," San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle said of the Kings. "That's why going after that second and third goal is really important. It's one of those teams where sitting on a one-goal lead is probably not going to cut it. We need to do a better job of scoring the next one, and the next one after that."
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in San Jose, Calif., contributed to this report.