Quick closeouts just aren't Kings' style
Ironically, on their barnstorming run to the Stanley Cup final, the Kings have really encountered only one trouble spot: that pesky matter of actually trying to close out a series.
In all four rounds, the Kings took a 3-0 series lead and put themselves in a wonderful opportunity to close things out at home. Three of those four times, the Kings lost, including Wednesday night, when the New Jersey Devils stayed alive in the series with a 3-1 victory at Staples Center.
The bad news for the Kings is that they have to play another game. The good news is that they have been in this situation two previous times, and both times they won on the road in Game 5.
Winning on the road is never easy for any team, and even though the Kings are 10-0 on the road in this postseason, that statistic won't help them on the ice in Game 5 on Saturday against the Devils.
The Kings have four players who have previously won the Stanley Cup and five other players who had previously been to the final and lost. There shouldn't be any confusion as to how difficult it can be to close out a final series, but defenseman Rob Scuderi allowed that the Kings might have been impacted a bit by the moment, by having the Stanley Cup actually in the building.
"It's part of it, but the Cup is going to be in the building whenever we play, for the rest of this series, so I don't think we can let it get to us," Scuderi said. "Maybe there was a little bit more buzz because we were here at home, but ultimately if we don't finish the job, we don't deserve it."
Three third-period goals mark rare stumble
--The Kings had a surprising wobble in the third period as the Devils scored three goals in the final 20 minutes to win the game. Before Game 4, the Kings had allowed only one third-period goal in their previous nine games. In total, the Kings had outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 15-5 in the third period entering Game 4.
--The chance that the Kings might claim the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history brought some high-profile alumni to Staples Center, including Hall of Fame forward Marcel Dionne -- a member of the famed "Triple Crown Line" -- along with Bob Wall, the first captain in Kings history. In fact, Wall attended the game exactly 45 years to the day -- June 6, 1967 -- when the Kings plucked him from Montreal in the expansion draft. Wall played three seasons with the Kings.
--The Kings have a 3-3 record in this postseason with a chance to close out a series. In the first round against Vancouver and in the Western Conference final against Phoenix, the Kings lost Game 4 at home with a chance to complete a sweep. In both cases, the Kings went on to win Game 5 on the road. The Kings' only win in a "clinch" game that wasn't preceded by a loss came in the second round against St. Louis, when the Kings completed the sweep in Game 4 at home.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought we played OK for the most part. I thought both teams were kind of sitting back for a long period of time. I thought we had some opportunities to get the lead, and (Devils goalie Martin) Brodeur was the difference. He made the big saves when he needed to, and they capitalized on a couple of their opportunities and that's it." -- Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi.
--D Drew Doughty momentarily gave the Kings a big lift 8:56 into the third period, when his slap-shot power-play goal tied the game 1-1 exactly one minute after the Devils had taken a 1-0 lead. Doughty has four goals and 10 assists in 18 playoff games and has particularly elevated his all-around game in the conference final and the Stanley Cup final, with three goals and three assists in his last five games. Doughty also made an outstanding third-period play, with the game tied 1-1, that easily could have led to a goal. From the neutral zone, Doughty lunged and chipped the puck toward LW Dustin Penner, who skated in alone on G Martin Brodeur but shot wide.
--LW Simon Gagne remained in the Kings' lineup, two days after he returned from a concussion. Gagne hadn't played since Dec. 26, and in Game 3 he played only six-plus minutes in a fourth-line role. But in Game 4, Gagne was more active and got moved into a bigger role. Gagne played 7 minutes, 49 seconds, including power-play time, and at one point, Gagne got elevated into a third-line role with C Jarret Stoll and RW Trevor Lewis as rookie LW Dwight King moved to the fourth line, with C Colin Fraser and RW Jordan Nolan.
--C Anze Kopitar didn't have a stellar all-around game, but Kopitar did win the faceoff that led to D Drew Doughty's goal and thus got an assist to pad his playoff numbers. Kopitar has six goals and nine assists in his last 12 games. Kopitar, though, did not record a shot on goal and, according to the official stat sheet, attempted only one shot, which went wide. Kopitar's first-line winger, RW Justin Williams, also did not record a shot on goal.