Pressure's on in L.A. as Devils heat up
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — There's no longer any need for Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter to manufacture urgency in his players' minds.
"New Jersey is playing pretty well, right?" Sutter told reporters at the team's practice facility on Sunday. "But let's not forget New Jersey is the home team. New Jersey is the team that had the hundred-some points. You know what, we expected a long, hard series out of the New Jersey Devils and that's what we're getting."
It didn't appear to be headed that way after the first three games as the Kings were primed to become the first team since 1998 to record a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final. Two New Jersey Devils victories later — the latest a 2-1 decision in Game 5 at the Prudential Center on Saturday — and the Kings are two more losses away from some even more rarified territory: becoming the first team in 70 years and second overall to squander a 3-0 lead in the finals.
"I don't think there's any doubt about that," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said when asked if the pressure was squarely on the Kings. "People expected this to be over two games ago."
This is the kind of adversity the Kings haven't experience since the regular season, where their struggles led to Terry Murray's firing as coach in December and squeaking into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference.
"I think we had a lot of it this year with the coaching change, battling to get to the playoffs," said Kings forward Simon Gagne, who, himself, had to deal with a concussion that kept him sidelined for five months. "That takes a lot of character to get through that. We know how to deal with it."
The Devils certainly have the Kings' attention heading into Monday's Game 6, something that may not have happened the last time these two teams played at Staples Center.
"I think a lot of us before Game 4 were distracted with family members and friends (and) the Cup coming in the building," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "A lot of things we have to put aside. Family always comes first for everyone, but at this point of the year, the team has to come first. We're a family in the room, on the ice. Right now we're No. 1 in everyone's mind."
The Kings are again staying at an area hotel to try to cut down those distractions.
"It's a lot of things to take care of," Gagne said. "If you don't find a way to put that aside as quickly as you can it can affect your game. I think we'll be more prepared tomorrow night with that stuff outside of the game."
Doughty said he expects the smart phones of his teammates to be off as they prepare Game 6. Much of the focus will be turned to how to solve New Jersey Devils veteran goalie Martin Brodeur, who has held the Kings to a goal in each of the last two games.
It's hardly a surprising development since only the Florida Panthers scored fewer regular-season goals among playoff teams.
"We've had some good chances," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "We've hit the post quite a bit of times last couple games."
That puts increasing pressure of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who again showed off one of the weak spots in his game on Saturday. He misplayed the puck in the first period, resulting in a Zach Parise tally.
Those kinds of miscues — combined with the scoring slump — haven't left the Kings doubting themselves.
Or at least they won't admit to it.
"I think we're fine," Doughty said. "We've lost a few in a row, but we could have easily won those two games, too. The Cup is going to be in the building again tomorrow night. I think that's enough motivation."