Sutter, Kings unfazed by loss in Game 4
NEWARK, NJ — After the Los Angeles Kings' loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, Kings coach Darryl Sutter bluntly dismissed the idea that his team — one that had suffered just its third setback in 18 playoff games — was a group that struggled to close.
"Awesome," Sutter scoffed Wednesday night with a pitch that rang somewhere between amused and annoyed when a reporter pointed out that his team was 3-3 in clinching games this postseason, adding a derisive, "close out a series in Game 4…" and shaking his head before his slow, baritone voice trailed off.
By Friday, after a cross-country flight back to New Jersey to calm his nerves, Sutter's attitude had changed — at least comparatively speaking for the dry-humored and perpetually grumpy 54-year-old farmer from Viking, Alberta — but his point hadn't:
You can't win ‘em all, and that's OK. Just don't get down about the ones you lose.
"Well, I don't think our team is going to struggle with confidence," Sutter said Friday of his squad's demeanor heading into Game 5. "We're not concerned with their confidence, and they're not really concerned the other way, right? So I don't think that's really an issue."
Bouncing back hasn't been a problem thus far for Los Angeles, which has yet to lose more than one game in a series in these playoffs. But if there was ever a time to rebound quickly, it would be Saturday night at the Prudential Center.
A road win in Game 5 would improve the Kings to 11-0 away from Staples Center this postseason, and, more importantly, it would wrap up the first Stanley Cup championship in the franchise's 45-year history. A loss would allow the Devils to stave off once-certain elimination for yet another game, shifting the series back to Los Angeles for a pivotal Game 6 Monday.
It would be a grand overstatement, of course, to say the series momentum now belongs to New Jersey after one win, and it wouldn't necessarily lean in the Devils' favor if they close the series gap to 3-2 on Saturday, either. But a team with nothing to lose can be a very dangerous thing — and the Kings would rather they never find out just how formidable New Jersey can be.
"We need to be that desperate team as well; (there's) no reason we shouldn't be," L.A. goaltender Jonathan Quick said. "Just because we're up doesn't mean we don't play desperate. We have to play that desperate game and we need to have that work ethic."
Perhaps some of the Kings' need for urgency in Game 5 stems from the awareness that their commanding advantage is hardly a result of dominant play. In fact, L.A. could have fallen behind 3-1 in this series just as easily as it grabbed a 3-1 lead.
"There's a very fine line," Kings right winger Justin Williams said. "It's a battle here and there, it's an extra effort when it's needed and it's guys capitalizing on opportunities. We're excited to be up 3-1, we're happy, but we're not satisfied with the way we've been playing."
Both Games 1 and 2 in Newark went to overtime, and Game 2 came inches from ending in New Jersey's favor in regulation when Ilya Kovalchuk's potential game-winner clanged off the crossbar with 14 seconds left in the third.
Los Angeles dominated Game 3, taking a 3-0 series lead in the only game that hasn't been a toss-up so far, but the Devils battled back on Wednesday for a 3-1 Game 4 win when it would have, perhaps, been just as easy to fold and call it a season.
The Kings never expected their opponent to go down easy, though, so the fact that the series shifted back to Newark didn't exactly come as a surprise.
"We didn't deserve to win the game," Kings center Jarret Stoll said. "We weren't hard enough, we weren't heavy enough and we weren't sharp enough to win the game, and that's where we've got to change for Game 5."
On the short side of the 3-1 deficit, the Devils are as realistic about their chances as their competitive nature will allow them to be, and they know what history says when it comes to teams who fall behind 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final.
But don't go telling them they don't have a chance.
"You know it's going to happen again, so why not us?" Devils coach Peter DeBoer said, noting that the 1942 Maple Leafs were the last — and only — team to climb out of a 3-0 hole to win a Cup. "You're not going to go 200 years without someone else doing it. So it's been long enough, it might as well be us."
If the Devils' path to the Final has taught them anything, it's that once they get rolling, they're tough to stop. In fact, in each of New Jersey's last two series, it closed out its opponent by winning at least three straight games after early-series struggles. Now would be an opportune time to do it again.
"If we didn't believe, we wouldn't be showing up every night," Devils right winger David Clarkson said. "We always believe in here. We have a lot of heart and character. We're going to give everything we have every shift and every play. That's all we can do right now."
And while L.A.'s coach has no problem admitting that losing is just a part of life this time of year, the Kings — unlike the Flyers and Rangers before them — would also prefer to not to make it a trend.
"If we had told you at the start of this series that we'd have a chance to sweep, you probably would have said we're crazy," Kings center Jeff Carter said. "We know they're a great team over there, and they have some great players. We expected to have our work cut out for us, and we do."
Follow Sam Gardner on Twitter: @sam_gardner