SAN JOSE — A power outage darkened the SAP Center on Thursday night shortly before the Kings and San Jose Sharks were scheduled to warm up for their playoff opener, leaving the crowd murmuring in confusion and forcing antsy players to wait in corridors illuminated by dim backup lights while they wondered what to do next.
About six minutes later the lights came back on and the teams took to the ice. For the Kings, everything went downhill from there.
Their 6-3 loss to the Sharks was by far their worst this season. Not necessarily by margin of defeat, but by their abandonment of all the principles that won them the Jennings trophy for allowing the fewest goals during the regular season while racking up 100 points to finish third in the tough Pacific Division.
The Sharks dominated from the outset and scored twice in the final minute of the first period, routinely forcing the Kings into committing turnovers that became outnumbered rushes. The Kings put no pressure on San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi until the third period, when they scored all three of their goals. By then, San Jose had built a 5-0 lead.
"It wasn't an ideal start. They scored three goals and in the second period we were just out of position and giving up a lot of odd-man rushes and making mistakes," Kings winger Marian Gaborik said. "When it was 3-0 we tried to make something happen, but we just couldn't play our game."
The Sharks had a lot to do with that.
The Kings' defensemen looked too slow against San Jose's speedy forwards, and the Kings' forwards were too meek against a team that took the body at every opportunity. Coach Darryl Sutter's decision to pull Jonathan Quick after two periods was an act of mercy, one he later said he wished he had performed sooner.
"First period chasing the puck. You're not going to beat a team like that chasing the puck around the ice," Sutter said.
"Coming into a building like this you have to be prepared to face a little bit of an onslaught in the first part of the game. And obviously I didn't do a good enough job of getting our players prepared for that."
Sutter need not have taken the blame for the defeat of a team that includes 16 players who were part of the Kings' 2012 Stanley Cup run. Defenseman Willie Mitchell, one of those holdovers, said players failed to carry out the game plan.
"I know every one of us want to come out -- this is the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is what it's all about -- and have a great start, and we didn't," Mitchell said. "And we didn't execute well and you get behind that many that early against a good hockey club it's really tough to come back. We'd better learn from our mistakes and have a much better effort in Game 2."
No matter the score, it still counts as one loss. And don't forget that the Kings lost the first two games of their first-round series against St. Louis last spring before winning the next four and, eventually, advancing to the Western Conference finals.
But it's the way the Kings lost Thursday that should concern them. That, and the fact the Sharks accomplished their goal of denting Quick's air of invincibility.
After the morning skate, Sharks captain Joe Thornton was asked what the key would be for San Jose.
"Score some goals on Quick," Thornton said. "I think he's the backbone of that team over there and we only scored 10 goals against him in the second round last year, in seven games. We've got to score some goals on him and keep them off the board as well."
Almost prophetic. They scored more goals Thursday than they totaled in the first three games of their playoff series last season, a series in which Quick shut them out twice. But the Kings had home-ice advantage in that series, in which every game was won by the home team. They don't have that advantage this time.
Late Thursday, the Sharks' parent company, Sharks Sports and Entertainment, issued a statement saying the cause of the pregame power outage was unknown. The Kings have until Sunday, when Game 2 will be played in San Jose, to figure out the cause of their in-game power outage.