It should come as no shock that the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are preparing for a Game 7 of their first-round series considering how tightly contested this fierce California rivalry has been over the last few years.

The surprise is how the teams got to Wednesday night's win-or-go-home game in San Jose.

The Sharks were dominant early, winning the first three games and making former playoff MVP Jonathan Quick look rather pedestrian as he allowed 16 goals in those losses.

But the Kings responded to win three straight games by three goals to force the showdown in San Jose for a spot in the second round against Anaheim.

"We understand what's at stake," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "There was the possibility the series was going to go to seven. We probably didn't think it was going to get there this way, but we're here now and guys will be ready to play."

The Kings are the ninth team to force a Game 7 after losing the first three games. Three of the previous eight finished the job.

Parise comes through

The Minnesota Wild gave Zach Parise all that money for games like this. Parise signed that megadeal two years ago for games even bigger than this. They forced at least one more with a furious finish.

Parise scored early and late on tipped shots, and the host Wild tacked on two empty-net goals for a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night that sent the first-round playoff series to a decisive Game 7 in Denver.

Panthers drop coach

The Florida Panthers parted ways with interim coach Peter Horachek.

Horachek replaced Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8 and Florida went 26-36-4 under him.

- Associated Press