Turns out the Sharks were not blowing smoke, and now their series with the Los Angeles Kings has become a simple best-of-three.

Dominating early and with Joe Thornton playing an inspired -- and inspiring -- game, San Jose held on Tuesday night to defeat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 at HP Pavilion, knotting up their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series at two games each.

Precisely what they said they could do, even after coming back from Los Angeles in an 0-2 hole.

"It wasn't easy," coach Todd McLellan said. "We're playing against the Stanley Cup champions. They've been through this. They've worked their way to the pinnacle. They're making it hard on us -- and we're trying to make it harder on them."

Most of the credit Tuesday night went to their captain for his performance setting the tone in the opening 20 minutes.

"That was vintage Joe Thornton right there," Logan Couture said. "Unbelievable -- creating turnovers, making passes, skating like a young guy. He was flying, and me personally, it got me going. We need Joe to play like that for the rest of the playoffs."

Brent Burns scored San Jose's first goal on a setup by Thornton, and Couture scored what proved to be the game-winner when a power play shot by Dan Boyle caromed off his shin and past Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick early in the second period.

At the other end of the ice, goalie Antti Niemi stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced with Kings forward Mike Richards getting his team's lone tally as Los Angeles clawed its way back into the game midway through the third period.

Thornton's line with Burns and TJ Galiardi on the wings were all over the ice in Game 3, but had nothing to show for it. In Game 4, they picked up where they left off -- "Getting the battle level up," Thornton said -- and it paid off at 6:09 of the first.

First Thornton stole the puck from Kings defenseman Slava Voynov. Then he got it to Burns -- twice.

"Burnzie's been shooting the puck real well, and it was just a matter of time before he put one in the net," Thornton said. "After the first shot, the puck just came right back to me. He was open again and he just made a beautiful shot upstairs."