Kings come up big once again
Facing elimination, Los Angeles gets best performance from its stars
The leaders on the playoff-savvy Los Angeles Kings made sure the season would not end.
"It's Game 7 now," Doughty said after a 2-1 win at Staples Center forced one final encounter with the Anaheim Ducks. "I think if we'd been asked, before the playoffs started, about going to a Game 7 against Anaheim in the second round, we would have taken it. Our team is built to play in these kind of games. Our leaders step up to the plate and they show the way. We're looking forward to this game. We're not nervous. We're not overly excited or overanxious. We're just ready to get going.''
Doughty predicted on Tuesday that this would be his team's best game of the series -- and his best game -- and both were delivered Wednesday in Game 6, a bona fide Kings special.
If the Kings boxed up and sold their quintessential playoff games on eBay, they'd read "2-1" on the label.
These are the stingy, low-scoring games the Kings seem to feed off as if it's oxygen for their lungs. It's their raison d'etre.
"I think people that have covered this team the last five or six years, that's probably more of what they're used to," said Brown.
Then they got the all-important first goal, Jake Muzzin making it 1-0 8:16 into the first period. The team scoring first is 6-0 in this series, and that's not by coincidence. Both clubs feed off the energy of the opening goal and, for whatever reason, have more success imposing their game on the other with the early goal.
For the Kings, that means setting up a fortress in front of Quick. More than any other game in this series, the Ducks had difficulty penetrating the slot area to find Grade A shooting lanes and scoring chances.
"They played well defensively tonight, they didn't give up too many odd-man rushes and didn't let us into the house too often," said Ducks star winger Corey Perry, held off the score sheet. "You have to give them credit, they played well.
"It's hard to play from behind against these guys; that's why it's important to come out and get that first goal, get the lead and play with the lead," added Perry. "They're a different team when they play from behind. We have to come out in Game 7 and really start with that push that we need and hopefully carry over that first one."
The Ducks knew they'd get the best from their rivals on this night. The Kings are now 5-0 when facing elimination in these playoffs, they're just awfully hard to finish off.
"We anticipated them being good," said Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano. "They know how to win. They've won before. They just came back from 3-0. We knew they were going to come out hard, we knew they wanted the first goal. I thought both goals were preventable, and it just sucks giving them up, especially the first one. But for the most part, I thought the game was pretty even tonight. I thought it came down that we had some power plays and didn't score on one of them.''
Ah yes, the power play. The Ducks went 0-for-5 on the night, including striking out on a chance when Slava Voynov got a high-sticking penalty with 6:59 to go.
"Power play wasn't good tonight, that's for sure," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, held scoreless and not particularly impactful on this night.
"Overall we didn't create anything. We didn't do the things that we needed to do. Our second unit was not bad. They had some chances and stuff. But we got to be better than that.''
Of course, the guy playing net for the Kings had something to do with that Ducks power outage.
Aside from being beat on a beautiful Kyle Palmieri wrap-around goal in the second period, Quick was Quick again, at the top of his game in stopping 21 of 22 shots.
Rookie John Gibson was solid in his third straight start for the Ducks, stopping 21 of 23 shots, but it's the second goal he gave up, to Trevor Lewis, that had a foul odor to it. Lewis beat Gibson with a soft wrist shot that squeezed through the rookie's pads at 14:04 of the middle frame to make it 2-0, a killer of a goal to give up and definitely one he needs to have.
A little harsh, perhaps. Most notably, though, Gibson rebounded well for the rest of the night and didn't look rattled by the goal.
"Those things happen," said Perry. "We're not going to sit here and blame him. You look at the saves that he made. Diving across, glove save, all the other things that he did well. It's the guys in front of him. We got to get a couple more for him."
No, the story on this night wasn't Gibson, but rather how the resilient Los Angeles Kings did it yet again. They refuse to die. They lost three straight to the Sharks and, after going up 2-0, lost three straight again, to the Ducks. But it's mid-May and they're still alive.
"At the end of the day, we need to learn as a group, and it's been like this for three or four years, whether it's regular season or playoffs, we got to make it easier on ourselves," said Brown, the Kings' captain out of breath as he spoke to media after the game. "I think the one time we did that consistently , everyone knows what happened.
"We keep going back to the well. It's a double-edged sword: It's great that we have that ability to dig our own grave and climb out of it, but we have one game to take care of here. From then on, we have to try and not put ourselves behind the eight ball.''
One more game, winner takes all, another chance for the Kings to show how much they love this stage.
"I don't want to say you don't have nerves, because you do, at the same time, Game 7s are fun to be a part of," said Brown. "The experience we have collectively as a group the last three or four years helps in these situations because we know what to do to be successful. We're worried about what we have to do. If we do what we have to do, I like our chances."
The Battle of SoCal deserves one more game. Two evenly matched contenders, both worthy of a conference finals berth where Chicago awaits, but only one club from here will get there.
"There's a lot of character guys in both rooms,'' said the Ducks' Cogliano said. "There's a lot of winners, and there's guys that simply don't want to lose. When you have that, you're going to have a battle."