NEWARK, N.J. -- Except for some better results, not much has changed on the power play the last two games.
The Los Angeles Kings combined for three goals on six man-advantage opportunities in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, as many as they scored in the previous 14 playoff games.
The Kings split the last two meetings with the New Jersey Devils at Staples Center, leaving them with a 3-games-to-1 series edge heading into Game 5 on Saturday night at Prudential Center. Another win and L.A. will clinch its first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
Justin Williams, who scored a power-play goal late in Game 3, said a variety of factors have accounted for the unit’s recent surge in production.
“There’s no secret to a good power play,” he said. “Shots, screens, tips, rebounds. It’s all of those things. An extra effort on a goal, getting in front of the goalie, just out-battling the four guys with one of your five out there.”
The Kings didn’t have a power play in Game 3 until the third period, when they were protecting a 2-0 lead. That gave the coaching staff reason to tinker with their personnel, keeping the first and second lines together with two defensemen, rather than their normal set of a fourth forward stationed at the blue line alongside a single defenseman.
L.A. scored on both man-advantage situations to finish off the 4-0 victory.
Dustin Brown wasn’t sure if the change in personnel helped spur the power play in Game 3, but “you’re more comfortable playing with your line,” he said.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said the decision to go with line combinations in Game 3, rather than his usual power-play combinations, was purely strategy and not a result of the team’s lack of production with the man advantage.
“It’s more time and score and those sorts of things,” he said.
The Kings went back to their traditional set in Game 4, and again scored a third-period power-play goal, this time with their top line of Williams, Brown and Anze Kopitar on the ice, along with center Mike Richards on one point and defenseman Drew Doughty on the other. Kopitar won the faceoff back to Richards, who slid the puck to Doughty, who scored on a slap shot with Brown providing a screen on goalie Martin Brodeur.
The goal tied the score, 1-1, but the Devils went on to score twice in the final five minutes to win, 3-1, and avoid their first playoff sweep in franchise history.
While the Kings are getting more shots to hit the back of the net on the power play the last two games, they aren’t necessarily getting a higher volume of shots on goal.
In the 14 games between Game 2 of the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks and Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, the Kings managed just three power-play goals on 87 shots on net, covering 68 minutes 28 seconds of power-play time, or 1.27 shots for every minute.
In the last two games, the Kings had 8:07 of power-play time and scored three goals on 11 shots on net, or 1.35 shots on net for every minute with the man advantage.
The Kings power-play efficiency rate still sits at a woeful 10.8 percent in the postseason, better than the 7.8 percent clip heading into Game 3 of the finals, but well below the 17 percent success rate from the regular season, which ranked 17th out of 30 teams in the league.
Kopitar, who has scored eight goals in the playoffs but none on the power play, said he didn’t have an answer for the team’s recent surge on special teams.
“If you look at our goals, they weren’t anything special,” he said “It wasn’t anything highlight-reel, it was just pretty much the back of the net. When the shots were there we took them and we got the results.”