Kings eager for a second chance

BY foxsports • June 8, 2012

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter is an intelligent man, so there's not much he doesn't understand hockey-wise or otherwise.

But
he professed to be baffled by the criticism of his team after the Kings
missed a chance Wednesday to sweep the Stanley Cup Final and instead
absorbed a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils before a deflated crowd at
Staples Center.

Asked what the Kings will have to do Saturday to
win Game 5 at the Prudential Center, Sutter seemed surprised the
question had been asked.

"Continue to play the way we're playing.
That's why you play series," he said before the team boarded its
charter flight to New Jersey on Thursday. "Unfortunately, we have some
spoiled people that think that everyone wins 16 in a row or something. A
little confusing to me."

The Kings set the bar extremely high by
blazing through the first three rounds of the playoffs in 14 games, two
above the minimum. When they followed that by winning twice in overtime
at New Jersey and shutting out the Devils at home in Game 3, they set
fans' hearts fluttering in anticipation of seeing the Cup being awarded
Wednesday.

The celebrations were put on hold and the Cup went
back into its packing case for the flight to New Jersey, primarily
because the Devils capitalized on their scoring opportunities and the
Kings let theirs go by.

The tone was set in the first period,
when the Kings hit the post twice, and continued in the second period
when New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur stymied Simon Gagne on a
breakaway and made a sprawling save on Trevor Lewis. Against a strong
defensive team like the Devils — and sure Hall of Fame goalie Brodeur —
they missed too many chances to prevail.

"Oh, I think we
definitely had our chances to win the game, but we knew they were going
to come out hard. They did a good job at that," Lewis said. "We've got
to refocus and prepare for Game 5."

Is it as simple as that?

They
also need to be more physical and win the battles they usually win but
lost Wednesday, the board battles and time-and-space battles.

"It's
not supposed to be a sweep all the time. You're not supposed to win
every game," winger Justin Williams said. "That's when their character
comes out, when their backs are against the wall. They played a great
game, battled hard. We just didn't quite have enough."

The Devils
seemed more cohesive after making two lineup changes, substituting Petr
Sykora for Jacob Josefson up front and Henrik Tallinder for Peter
Harrold on defense. They benefited from a defensive mixup by the Kings
on their second goal, but after being continually frustrated by Kings
goalie Jonathan Quick in the first three games, they felt the break was a
reward they had earned.

"We definitely are looking forward to
the next game and some of the momentum. Finally we were able to score
goals on Quick, not many, but enough to win," Brodeur said. "Hopefully
that's going to be a good thing for the boys coming home, that we're a
little better offensively on home ice."

The Kings are 10-0 on the
road this postseason and have won 12 straight away games over two
seasons, both NHL records. They won their first-round series against the
No.-1 seeded Vancouver Canucks on the road after missing a chance to
clinch at home and did the same in the West finals against the Phoenix
Coyotes. Both clinchers were in overtime.

So while they'll be in hostile territory Saturday it's not unfamiliar territory mentally.

"We've
just got to forget about what's happened in the past," defenseman Drew
Doughty said. "We've got to restart. It's Game 5, but at the same time
it's just that we have to say it's Game 1 and we need that first game.
It's so important.

"Going in on the road I think that's where we
play our best system game and don't feel the pressure maybe of closing
it out in L.A., or whatever it might be. So, next one's huge."

It
will become even bigger if the Kings allow the Devils to gain even more
confidence and extend this to a sixth game Monday at Staples Center.

"It's going to be an interesting game, a game of inches," center Anze Kopitar said.

It's also an opportunity they can't afford to miss.

--Helene Elliott


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