EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings are home from a two-game playoff humiliation still confident they can compete against the San Jose Sharks.
Just don’t ask Quick what the Kings must change to make it happen.
”A lot of things,” Quick snapped at the Kings’ training complex Monday. ”I’ve got things to do this afternoon. I don’t want to get into all of them.”
Quick isn’t known for his loquaciousness in Los Angeles, but he’s known for stopping pucks, particularly in the playoffs. The Conn Smythe Trophy winner didn’t do it nearly often enough in the first two games, yielding 12 of the Sharks’ 13 goals over just five periods.
Although Los Angeles hasn’t appeared capable of keeping up with the speedy, motivated Sharks so far, the Kings plan to rely on their playoff experience and an improved defensive effort when they host Game 3 on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
It takes more than two horrific road games to unnerve a veteran roster packed with Stanley Cup champions, according to leading scorer Anze Kopitar.
”It’s not good, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s 7-2 or you lose 3-2 in triple overtime,” Kopitar said. ”It stinks, and we’ve got to get better.”
The Kings were in the same jam last year after two road losses in St. Louis to open a playoff run that stretched all the way to their second straight Western Conference finals.
But those were two one-goal defeats in St. Louis last spring. Los Angeles didn’t seem as utterly outclassed by the Blues as they did in San Jose, unable to keep pace while making dozens of uncharacteristic mistakes in puck possession, neutral-zone defense and goaltending.
As Quick suggested, the Kings have plenty to fix. They’ve also got to forget the pickle they’re in, according to center Jarret Stoll.
”You’ve got to park it,” Stoll said. ”You’ve got to move on. … You prepare for the game like it’s any other, but you can look back and see the situation you’re in. We know what we need from the guys. We just haven’t got it up to this point.”
At least the Kings are back at Staples Center, where they’re 10-0-1 against San Jose in the past three years. Los Angeles won all four home games in the clubs’ second-round playoff series last spring.
The Sharks’ biggest obstacle appears to be overconfidence after outclassing their heated rivals twice. But after years of playoff failure, San Jose isn’t likely to get too happy – particularly given its unimpressive recent history at Staples Center, where the Sharks lost Czech youngster Tomas Hertl to a knee injury on Kings captain Dustin Brown’s hit early this season.
”We’ve stepped up the physicality and our speed in the playoffs here,” Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said. ”I think it’s kind of caught them by surprise, and (there’s) definitely a level of frustration.”
The Kings won’t vocalize that frustration, but it isn’t tough to spot.
They allowed fewer goals than any NHL team in the regular season, but they had their two worst defensive games of the season in San Jose. Los Angeles hadn’t allowed 13 goals in any two-game span since December 2010, a year before coach Darryl Sutter stepped behind the bench and built a defensive powerhouse.
Los Angeles also just managed four goals of its own. No Kings forward other than Trevor Lewis has even scored a goal in the series, with only two assists apiece from Kopitar and Jeff Carter.
Yet Sutter cast a spotlight Monday on the Kings’ depth forwards for their shortcomings at the Shark Tank, breaking with the coach’s usual practice of refusing to differentiate stars from supporting players.
”I thought that our third and fourth line and our fifth and sixth defensemen could match up better against their third and fourth line,” said Sutter, a longtime advocate for the grinders and defense-minded players who populate their depth groupings. ”It hasn’t happened yet. … Our role players, if we can show the tenacity that their role players are showing, then we have a chance. Otherwise, we don’t.”