LOS ANGELES — After missing out on a chance to close out the New Jersey Devils in Game 4 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final on June 6 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Kings are back in Newark, New Jersey, preparing for Game 5 tonight (5:00 PM PDT, NBC), in front of a hostile crowd at the Prudential Center.
The Kings lead the series, 3-1, and would win the first Stanley Cup Championship in the 45-year history of the franchise with a victory.
The Devils played their best game of the series in Game 4, while the Kings were a bit too relaxed.
“We didn’t have our best game tonight, and they did,” defenseman Matt Greene said after Game 4. “They played well. We knew they were going to come out hard, and they did. We have to be tighter in the defensive zone, and tighter in our game if we want to win.”
“We can be sharper,” added Greene. “I think we played OK, but that’s not going to cut it right now. I can’t point at anything, but just at things that we’ve got to do better—moving the puck faster out of our zone, and getting more sustained pressure in theirs. I think they were executing pretty well tonight, and that’s on us though, too. We’ve got to do a better job disrupting their game.”
“We wish we were a little bit sharper, but there’s nothing we can do,” said defenseman Rob Scuderi. “It’s one notch for them. We’ve got Game 5 coming up.”
As Greene and Scuderi indicated, the Kings were not at their best. But the Devils were on top of their game.
“It’s disappointing to lose a game, and it’s not going to be easy,” said center Jarret Stoll. “[The Stanley Cup] is a tough trophy to win. They’re a darned good team, and we have to respect that. They played well. We had some opportunities that we didn’t score on. They came back at us and scored some timely goals.”
“It was a pretty even game, all the way through,” said forward and team captain Dustin Brown. “They found a way to score a timely goal. We had some chances early in the third [period] that we didn’t bury, and made a couple of mistakes that we usually don’t [make] that they capitalized on.”
The Devils’ best player was superstar goaltender Martin Brodeur.
“He’s [going to be] a Hall of Famer for a reason,” said Brown. “He made timely saves for them. He kept the puck out of the net for them, and allowed them to win the game.”
“We made a few too many mistakes,” added Brown. “We’ve got to clean up the mistakes, but [Brodeur] played well. He made some big saves for them.”
Among the most noticeable problems for the Kings was that they failed to get much traffic in front of Brodeur, and they allowed the Devils to control the neutral zone.
“There were times when we didn’t get [traffic in front of Brodeur],” Stoll noted. “But we had our opportunities to score. We had some partial breakaways, we had a breakaway in the third. We had some good chances to put the puck in the net. We just have to make sure that we capitalize.”
“I don’t think we were as good as we could be in the neutral zone, defending the rush,” said right wing Justin Williams. “We’re going to [have to] get better at those.”
“Elimination games, I don’t know, the teams you play against are there for a reason,” added Williams. “It’s not supposed to be a sweep all the time. You’re not supposed to win every game. 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.”
In all likelihood, the pressure of completing the series sweep, and possibly winning the Stanley Cup in front of their home crowd had an effect on the Kings.
Just don’t expect them to admit it.
“It’s in the back of your mind, the situation we’re in,” said Brown. “But the approach was the same for everyone.”
“You can’t look too far ahead,” said Stoll. “We’ve [haven’t] done that, so far, in the playoffs. We’ve stayed in the moment, stayed within that game—how we need to play to win that game.”
Despite what the players were saying, the evidence indicated otherwise.
“We weren’t ill-prepared, we weren’t over-hyped, we weren’t thinking about what would come after if we had won,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “We were just focused on that game, that first period, that first shift. That’s what we’re going to have to do next game, too.”
“We all knew about it, but we just forgot about it,” added Doughty. “It was just another game, even though it would’ve been great to close it out in front of our home fans, I think we were well-prepared. We just didn’t play the game [that well].”
The Kings will have to focus solely on tonight’s Game 5, if they want to end the series that night.
“You’ve got to keep your mindset right,” Stoll explained. “Hopefully, at the end of the night, there’s going to be a lot of smiles on our faces. But there’s a lot of work to get to that point, and we know that.”
“[The fourth victory in a series is] going to be the toughest win to get,” Stoll elaborated. “It always is. It has been, so far, in every round for us. That elimination game has been tough. We’re going to have to re-group, have a couple of good days of practice, and focus on Game 5.”
The Kings failed to match the Devils’ desperation level in Game 4. They will have to do that if not exceed it, in Game 5.
“You’re trying to take away a team’s season,” Scuderi noted. “In this case, we’re trying to take away their chance at a [Stanley] Cup. They’ve been a good team throughout. It’s not like we ever doubted that for a second. We have to match their desperation in the next one.”
“To win two, three, especially four in a row in the playoffs is very tough, especially against a team of that caliber,” said Stoll. “They’re here for a reason. They’re in the Finals for a good reason. They’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of character.”
An ominous fact for the Kings going forward is that the Devils are 9-1 in Games 4-7 of each of their playoff series’ this season. Nevertheless, the Kings can take great solace in the fact that they are 10-0 on the road in the playoffs, heading into Game 5.
Something has to give.
“We’re comfortable [going on the road],” said Brown. “Game 4 is a game we’ve lost a few times now. It’s a matter of resetting, and having the same approach for Game 5. We’ve just got to hit the reset button. We’ve been in this situation four times now, in the playoffs. We’ve always come back with a big, rebound game. We lost three games, but we’ve always come back to win the next one.”
“It’s disappointing not to win it here, in front of our crowd,” added Brown. “But we go to New Jersey, and again, we’re comfortable on the road. It doesn’t matter if we win it here or there. Maybe there’s more sentimental value in winning on home ice, but if we win it there, we bring it right back here.”
“They’re going back [home],” Doughty noted. “They’ve got some hope now. We’ve got to make sure that first twenty minutes in [Game 5] are the hardest twenty minutes they’ve played all year. We’ve got to go in there, finish all of our chances, work hard on the forecheck, do everything right, and push’em right out.”
2012 Stanley Cup Final, New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings, Game 4 Highlights, June 6, 2012
Tickets for the Kings’ upcoming home Stanley Cup Finals games against the New Jersey Devils – June 11, 5:00 PM (Devils vs. Kings: Game 6 – if necesary )are available from Barry’s Tickets, an official partner of the Los Angeles Kings. Use the code, “Royalty010” to get a 10 percent discount on their “Best Value” tickets.
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