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LOS ANGELES -- As the final seconds ticked away, Los Angeles Kings fans waited patiently, quietly in their seats waiting for something to happen.
Certainly this wasn't the way the game would end.
After all, this isn't the way Kings games are supposed to end at home. At least not during these playoffs or over the past 15 games where they Kings have won every single time.
There have been miracle goals and miracle saves along the way during the Kings' franchise record 15-game winning streak, and it was understandable for Kings fans and players alike to think someway, somehow another miracle would magically happen when they needed it most Thursday night.
But it never happened.
|Goaltender Jonathan Quick couldn't save the Kings this time, as L.A. suffered a 3-2 loss in Game 4 and now trails the Hawks, 3-1, in the series.|
For the first time in over two months, the Kings skated off their home ice in defeat after a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. If the Kings aren't able to break their other, well, not-so-positive streak on the road, Thursday night will also mark the last time they skate off the ice at home this season.
The Kings knew their home winning streak had to end at some point. They just hoped it wouldn't be Thursday night, putting them in a daunting 3-1 series hole going back to Chicago for Game 5 on Saturday. Now the Kings, losers of 13 of their past 14 road games, must find a way to win not once, but twice away from home if they are to successfully defend their Stanley Cup.
Last season, the Kings' 10 straight playoff wins on the road helped propel them to their first Stanley Cup. This season, their eight straight playoff wins at home, three off the record set by Edmonton in 1989, propelled them back to the Western Conference finals. But for a team that has only had home-ice advantage in the playoffs once over the past two decades, simply winning at home wasn't enough.
Not that the Kings were necessarily hanging their hats on their home winning streak and thinking that would be enough to get them back to the Stanley Cup finals.
"We're not really worried about a consecutive home winning streak this time of year," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "It was about finding a way to win and we weren't able to do it tonight."
The Kings might not have been worried about their home winning streak, but their record on the road should be somewhat worrisome. The Kings have not only lost all but one of their past 14 road games, but they've scored only one goal in all but two of their past 10 games away from Staples. Quite simply, two goals weren't going to be enough to beat Chicago at home, and the Kings will need a lot more than one away from home if they are to extend this series.
"[Two goals] is enough if we're playing well defensively and doing the right things, but we haven't been obviously," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We've been giving up too many goals and relying on [Jonathan] Quick to make too many big saves. We're not playing the way this team is capable of."
The only thing more odd than the Kings skating off the ice after a loss at home was the fashion in which they lost the game. The Kings feed off the energy from the crowd at Staples Center when they're playing with a lead, especially an early lead, and that's exactly what Slava Voynov gave them just 3:28 into the game.
Voynov's team-leading sixth playoff goal, a Kings record among defenseman, gave L.A. a 1-0 lead. But the Kings would end up giving up two leads in their first home loss since March 23, when Dustin Penner's goal to give the Kings a 2-1 lead in the second period was wasted once Patrick Kane tied it up late in the second period, and Marian Hossa put away the game winner early in the third period.
"We gave up a late goal and an early goal in consecutive periods when we made a couple of mistakes and they found a way to score," Brown said. "We have to find a way to refocus. Game 5 has to be our only focus now. ... You can throw records out. Home record, away record, you can throw them out the window when it comes to games like this."
While the Kings squandered a chance to tie up the series at home, the loss was all the more painful considering the Blackhawks were without top defenseman Duncan Keith, who was suspended one game for his high stick on Jeff Carter in Game 3. Keith will be back for Game 5 in Chicago. The Kings, meanwhile, are still trying to figure out life without Mike Richards, who had played every game this season before missing the last three after suffering a concussion in Game 1.
"I think he was our leading point producer at the time of his injury," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Obviously that impacts a lot."
As the Kings sat in their dressing room after the game and slowly packed their bags for Chicago, the moment was not lost on them. They know they are one loss away from not only having their season end, but watching another team hoist the Stanley Cup in a couple of weeks.
"We've been through a lot as a group," Brown said. "We've never been faced with a situation like this, but it's about leaning on each other at this point. It's not going to be one individual or one guy. It's going to be us as a group if we're going to be successful."