Comforts of home suit Kings lately
Road warriors of 2012 find life at Staples grand, especially after dramatic victory
LOS ANGELES -- Dustin Brown was still wearing his skates and rubbing his head as he sat in front of his locker Thursday night, trying to figure out how the Los Angeles Kings pulled out one of the more improbable postseason wins in team history.
It wasn't quite the Miracle on Manchester or the Frenzy on Figueroa, but it may be remembered just as fondly down the line if the Kings are able to parlay their good fortune into another Stanley Cup.
Trailing the San Jose Sharks by a goal with 1:42 left in the game, the Kings scored twice in 22 seconds to win 4-3 and take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Brown scored the tying goal on a 5-on-3 advantage, and Trevor Lewis quickly followed up with the winning goal on a loose puck after a shot.
Both players were key members of the Kings' Stanley Cup-winning team last season and have been teammates for the past five seasons as the Kings rose from upstarts to contenders to champions. That time together was not lost on either player as they stood across from each other in the Kings' locker room after the game.
"Experience is one thing, but it's another thing to have all that experience together as a group of guys," Brown said. "That goes a long way when you get yourself in a hole. We didn't play a great game tonight, but we found a way to win."
That experience together not only helped the Kings go from the No. 8 seed to Stanley Cup champions last season, but also helped this current group rally from a 2-0 series hole against the St. Louis Blues in the first round; in Game 4 of that series, the Kings overcame a 2-0 first-period deficit.
"That time together helps a lot," Lewis said. "We've been through it all."
The Kings claim they don't care where they play in the playoffs. Whether it's at Staples Center or on the road, they'll tell you they are equally comfortable when they take the ice.
Of course, that's not totally true. Last season, the Kings won a record 10 straight road playoff games, 12 straight dating to the previous postseason, while losing three potential series-clinching games at home.
They were so comfortable playing on the road last postseason that they began to stay at a hotel for home games in an attempt to capture the same feeling of being away from home that they had when they played on the road.
The roles have been reversed this season.
The Kings' victory Thursday night gave them not only a commanding lead in the series but also 12 straight wins at home and six straight wins at home in the playoffs, both team records. The Kings' 24-4-1 record at home this season -- regular season and playoffs combined -- is the best in the NHL and the best home winning percentage the team has ever had.
It's no accident the Kings have become so good at home this season. It was a team emphasis after depending on a record run on the road to win the Stanley Cup last year.
"A lot of it's our attitude," Brown said. "With everything that happened last year, we didn't play great at home in the playoffs. We found a way to win 10 straight on the road. I think it was a focus coming in this year, and a part of that is it's a good building to play in. There's a lot of energy from the fans and that helps. It definitely makes a difference."
Not only are the Kings more comfortable at home this postseason, but they're going out of their way to stay at home as much as possible this playoff series. After the Kings play the Sharks in Game 3 on Saturday in San Jose, they will fly home, where they will skate Sunday and Monday before flying back north for Game 4 on Tuesday night.
The Kings have always enjoyed a nice home-ice advantage at Staples Center despite playing in a city that isn't historically known as a great hockey town. But that has changed. The Kings sold out every home game this season and have sold out 64 straight home games dating to last season. And anyone who has been to a Kings playoff game at Staples Center will attest to the fact it is the loudest, most raucous crowd in the city.
"We feed off the energy of the crowd," Lewis said. "We want to make this a tough place to play and have teams scared to come in here."
As good as the Kings have been at home this season, they understand it doesn't mean anything if they don't win two more games, either at home or on the road.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet," Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick said. "You get nothing for two (wins) so we have a lot of work to do still."