EL SEGUNDO -- There was a mutual feeling Monday morning at Toyota Sports Center, one of dissatisfaction.
Strange, considering the Kings went up 3-games-to-none on the Vancouver Canucks with a 1-0 victory the night before at Staples Center, the first time in franchise history they’ve taken such a lead in the playoffs.
But the Canucks had the best record in the NHL during the regular season for a reason, and they’ve steadily played better as the series has progressed. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Kings heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
“We’re lucky to be in this situation we’re in now,” defenseman Matt Greene said.
Vancouver pelted the Kings with 41 shots on goal in Game 3, the second straight game they’ve surpassed the 40-shot mark. The Canucks killed all eight power plays by the Kings and kept possession of the puck for long stretches in the offensive zone. Most of the Kings looked as if they were a step behind the Canucks, and a couple appeared as if they were going one way while the puck was going another.
If it wasn’t for a gift rebound off the pads of goalie Cory Schneider that an unmarked Dustin Brown deposited in the net with 13:30 remaining in the game, the Kings could easily be looking at a 2-1 series lead with the opportunity for Vancouver to steal back home-ice advantage in Game 4.
“We still haven’t played our best hockey, and I thought we were probably even worse yesterday than we were in Game 2,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We definitely need to pick up our socks and every single one of us needs to play better.”
Those words sound as if they’re coming from a player whose team is facing elimination rather than one game from winning its first playoff series in 11 years.
“There are a lot of things we’ve got to address here,” Greene said. “The last two games, like I said, they’ve been playing well, they’ve been getting themselves going and we’ve been lucky, so we’ve got to regroup and have a better game.”
Vancouver didn’t practice Monday, but leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin will be flying to L.A. and begin practicing with the team Tuesday. He has missed the past 12 games because of a concussion, so it’s still unclear if his arrival will be more of a morale boost than a physical one, but the Kings are more concerned with their play anyway.
“The next game is going to be the toughest of them all,” Doughty said. “Vancouver took it to us last night. They played their best game of the series and now it’s our turn to play our best game. We can’t treat it as if we’re up 3-0, we’ve just got to win one more. We’ve got to play our hardest game yet and take it as if we’re down a few.”
Brown, who drew as much attention for his jaw-rattling check on Henrik Sedin early in the second period as he did for his fourth goal of the playoffs, said it all comes down to time of possession in the offensive zone.
“Game 1 was a really good puck-possession game for us and we made it really hard on their top guys to have offensive opportunities,” he said. “The last two games, they’ve had over 40 shots against us. … We didn’t give up a ton of Grade-A scoring chances, but if we can play in their end, it makes it a lot harder for them.”
Quickly and effectively getting the puck out of the defensive zone will also be a key, Doughty said.
“I felt we were making too many turnovers, the [defense] wasn’t moving pucks up quick enough and we weren’t getting pucks in deep,” he said. “If we’re doing that, they’re going to turn things around and create odd-man rushes and that’s what they did last game. … They peppered [goalie Jonathan Quick] with a lot of shots and so next game we’ve got to fix that.”
Maybe then they can sit back and appreciate what they've accomplished.