NEWARK, N.J. -- Another Game 1 victory by the Los Angeles Kings in this incredible playoff run, another pledge by the opposition to improve areas of its game and come back with a better result.
Heard this before?
Shortly after losing the opening game of this postseason to L.A. 4-2, Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said the power-play unit needed to execute better after failing on all five opportunities. To his dismay, Kings captain Dustin Brown scored two short-handed goals in Game 2, the difference in another 4-2 defeat.
St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock then asked for more commitment from his top players after losing Game 1 of the second-round series, but he could only wince as the Kings scored four unanswered goals in the first period of Game 2, throwing a bucket of cold water on the Blues in the 5-2 victory that eventually led to a series sweep.
Then it was coach Dave Tippett’s turn to proclaim that the Phoenix Coyotes needed to take some lessons from their 4-2 loss to L.A. in the opening game of the Western Conference finals. The only lesson the Coyotes learned was that the Kings could play even better, as Jeff Carter scored a hat trick in Game 2 and the Kings delivered their best all-around performance of these playoffs in the 4-0 victory.
Now it’s New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer who sat before the media Thursday morning, a day after his team lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals to the Kings, 2-1 in overtime, and said his team needed an all-around better effort Saturday night in Game 2 back at Prudential Center.
“We’ve got to be a little sharper in all our areas,” he said.
Ring a bell?
Thanks to a previously scheduled Radiohead concert at the Prudential Center on Friday night, the Devils will have an extra day to analyze tape, pinpoint where they came up short and determine how they can improve.
As for the Kings, they said they’ll be ready for another push back from the opposition, especially in the first 10 minutes.
“We’ve just got to make sure before the game that we’re fully prepared for that, and we’ve got to exceed their work ethic,” said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. “They’re going to be desperate.”
Brown said they’ve taken that approach throughout their postseason run, a mindset that must be working, as the Kings have outscored the opposition in the first period of their Game 2s by a combined score of 6-0 through the first three rounds.
“We’ve really just focused in as a group on the first three or four shifts of the game and going from there,” he said. “It has done well for us.”
If there’s one trend the Devils have on their side, it’s the experience of playing from behind in these playoffs. Three times, in fact.
They fell behind, 2 games to 1 and 3-2, in the opening round against the Florida Panthers before rallying to win Games 6 and 7 in overtime.
They dropped the opener against the Philadelphia Flyers before again storming back and winning four straight, then lost two of the first three in the Eastern Conference finals to the New York Rangers before, once again, rallying to win the next three and clinch the series in six.
That’s probably why Kings coach Darryl Sutter wasn’t interested in looking back at how the Kings have performed in previous Game 2s. He was concerned only with the Devils.
“It’s not about what happened, who we played last time, anything like that,” he said. “We know our opponent is a lot tougher than anyone we played yet.”
The Kings probably have heard that line before, too.