Back-to-back losses haven't derailed Kings' hopes
NEWARK, N.J. -- They've seen their lead in the Stanley Cup Final melt from 3-0 to 3-2. They've seen their perfect spring on the road end, their flawless penalty-killing dented.
What the Los Angeles Kings haven't seen is an erosion of their confidence.
The Kings will try for a third time to wrap up the first Stanley Cup in franchise history when they host the New Jersey Devils on Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). They missed one chance Wednesday in Los Angeles when they lost 3-1, then came up short again in a 2-1 loss Saturday at Prudential Center that ended their 10-game road winning streak this spring.
But they know they'll take the ice at Staples Center on Monday still owning the lead in the series -- and still confident they can close out the Devils.
"We have an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup," goaltender Jonathan Quick said when asked if the Kings could take any positive from the loss. "We don't need any other positives."
The Kings have every reason to feel confident going into Game 6. They outplayed New Jersey for most of Game 5, but paid the price for a misplay by Quick that led to Zach Parise's first-period power-play goal -- and got a bad break in the second period when Bryce Salvador's shot hit L.A. defenseman Slava Voynov and caromed past Quick.
But for a team that wasn't even assured of a Stanley Cup Playoff berth until Game No. 81 of the regular season, a few bumps along the road aren't going to diminish anyone's belief that this is their year.
"I think we just have confidence in ourselves," said defenseman Rob Scuderi, who won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. "Most of the season was kind of a struggle for us, large parts of it at least, but I think, in the end, everyone thought that we had the answer in this room. I don't think this situation is any different. We have to feel the same way."
The Kings did a lot of things right in Game 5 -- they out-shot and out-chanced the Devils for the majority of the game. But Martin Brodeur made 25 saves and got some help from the iron. The Kings hit a post less than five minutes into the game and rang a pair of crossbars early in the third.
"You just have to keep plugging away," Scuderi said. "If you're going to get frustrated in the first period, because we hit the post, and we're going to throw in the towel, then I don't think we deserve to win it."
Quick said the Kings' confidence level "is the same as it was when we were up 3-0."
He also downplayed the notion that the Kings hadn't been tested in blitzing through their first three rounds without having to go as far as a sixth game.
"Just because we were able to come out on top doesn't mean we weren't tested," he said. "You look at all the games -- three out of every four were one-goal games."
Added defenseman Matt Greene: "It's disappointing, but they don't [just] hand this thing out. It's difficult. It's hard to do. It's a test, and you've got to be the better team to close this thing out."
If the Kings are going to celebrate the first championship in franchise history Monday, they'll have to find a way to crack the Devils' stubborn defense and get some pucks past Brodeur, whose play in this series belies his 40 years. Brodeur's teammates gave him plenty of help in Game 5, blocking 20 shots and getting in the way of L.A. shooters all night long.
Greene said the Kings don't have to change what they're doing -- they simply have to do it better.
"We've just got to keep plugging away and get the puck to the net," he said. "They're playing great. They're playing good hockey. They're getting their chances and locking it down. They're playing good defensively and their goaltender is playing really well for them. We've got to find a way to solve it."
The disappointment of not taking the Stanley Cup with them on the flight home was palpable -- this is just the second time the Kings have made the Final, and they won just one game in 1993. To have two chances to win it all and see them snatched away would unnerve a lot of teams. Scuderi said that's not the case with the Kings.
"It is a series. They got their second win. We got three," he said. "As disappointing as it is, you have to put it behind you. I don't think anyone is ... I don't deny that we're disappointed, but I don't think we're at the point of panic."
Added Justin Williams, who scored the Kings' lone goal and was thwarted by Brodeur on several other chances: "I'm [upset], just like everyone else is in that dressing room. We're disappointed. We've had two chances to close it out and hoist that Cup and accomplish our dream.
"We haven't quite gotten it yet. We have two more chances. We're going back home. I don't care where we do it as long as it gets done."
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist