There’s no panic in Los Angeles after twice missing out on chances to win the Stanley Cup. At least that was the company line Sunday, as the Kings discussed Game 6.
Many of them, in fact, took an optional skate less than a day after a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 5, and seemed upbeat afterward.
“I think we’re a confident bunch,” Kings center Mike Richards said at the team’s El Segundo, Calif., practice facility. “We obviously wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have the confidence. It’s just a matter of playing hockey and getting better. It’s the Stanley Cup finals. And if it was easy, everybody would have a Cup. But it’s not easy. It’s one of the toughest things that you’re going to have to go through.”
Saturday’s defeat was Los Angeles’ second in the past four days, after previously losing just two games all postseason. Game 6 is tonight at Staples Center.
“The mood’s good. I mean, you can talk about doubt, because we’ve lost two games in a row, and that’s something this team hasn’t done in a while. But we’ve been playing good hockey,” Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown said. “When you sit down and really start to realize the position we’re in — up 3-2 on home ice — I think most teams would have taken that at the start of the series.”
Especially when you consider the fact that Los Angeles is a No. 8 seed, and has never won a Stanley Cup in the franchise’s 45-year existence.
“Is there pressure?” Brown asked. “Yeah, there’s pressure. It’s the Stanley Cup finals.”
Perhaps, after rolling through three rounds, the Kings are finally starting to feel that pressure. With a home crowd waiting for the NHL’s top prize last Wednesday, the Devils stole some of the Kings’ thunder and got back in the series by posting a 3-1 win in Los Angeles. Then, the screws tightened Saturday, when New Jersey scored a 2-1 victory in Newark, N.J., ending the Kings’ NHL record 10-game road postseason win streak.
So not only does Los Angeles have to worry about losing the Cup, it also has the added burden of possibly becoming just the second NHL team to waste a 3-0 lead in the finals. Detroit fell apart in 1942, when it blew a three-game edge and lost to Toronto.
To a man, the Kings insist they have played well the past two games. There is truth to that. They have hit four goalposts in the past six periods, and the New Jersey tallies in Game 5 were not gorgeous scoring plays by any means. Devils forward Zach Parise snared a gift power-play goal when Jonathan Quick mishandled a pass, and New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador’s game-winner bounced into the net off Kings defenseman Slava Voynov.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said his team is in a good place in what has turned out to be a very close series. His team received the breaks in winning the first two games, and the Devils had them the past two.
“There is adversity in every game at some point … always,” Sutter said. “I don’t think not having long series has any bearing on anything. The farther you go, the better the teams are that you play. You know what? That’s why they’re in it. There are low-scoring games. You look at it, four of the games were 2-1 hockey, other than an empty-net goal the last few seconds. The only challenge with our team is that we’re not scoring a lot of goals.”
New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur said the Kings have to be questioning themselves — at least a little.
“That’s a bit of the doubt that we wanted to put in their heads, right from the get-to. But it took us a while to be able to get to that,” Brodeur said after the Devils skated at the El Segundo rink. “We dug ourselves a really big hole that’s going to be tough to overcome. But it’s getting a little more realistic every day. So we’re looking forward to challenging them again. It takes a lot of pressure for them to try to win it and close the deal.
“It’s the hardest game to win, the last one. Not just (in) the Stanley Cup finals, but any series.”