Hard to kill cockroach Kings
Never-say-die Los Angeles team has Rangers on the ropes heading to Game 3
LOS ANGELES -- They are the royal cockroaches of the NHL.
And we say that as a term of endearment.
You cannot kill the Los Angeles Kings. They will not go away.
The San Jose Sharks found that out after going up 3-0 in a first-round series before watching the Kings stunningly pull off four straight wins.
The Anaheim Ducks felt pretty good after a Game 5 victory gave them a 3-2 series lead, only to see the Kings raise their game to a whole new level en route to beating the Ducks in seven.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks had a 2-0 lead in Game 7. At home. So what, the Kings said, as they came back to win in overtime that night.
The New York Rangers? Where to begin. Jumping out to 2-0 leads in the opening two games of the Cup finals only to see the Kings rally back both nights. Talk about soul-crushing. Per information provided by the Elias Sports Bureau, the Kings became the first team in NHL history to win three straight playoff games after trailing each game 2-0.
"I think probably 'satisfy' is not the right word for the first two games," said Kings captain Dustin Brown, the overtime hero in Saturday night's wild 5-4 affair. "I think the way we play, everyone is talking about how we come back. I think it's more how we turn the tide of the game over the course of the game. We're not worried about scoring the game-winning goal. We're worried about just playing our game, grinding away. It starts with one [goal]. That's what our mentality is. Whether we're down two, up two, the situation doesn't change for us. Where we have faltered is at the start of games -- the last three games, really.
"The mentality of our team is very black and white. We've been missing that in the first period. Again, in saying that, our mentality, it allows us to stay in games and to kind of turn the tide over the course of the game, has allowed us to come back. We have to get back to it at the start of games."
Willie Mitchell, whose shot was deflected by Brown for the double-OT winner Saturday night, chuckled when asked what's being said in the Kings room when they're down 2-0 yet again.
"Well, we're going to rope-a-dope them again," the veteran defenseman said, laughing. "Fat chance, we're not saying that. Trust me. Quite honestly, we're not happy with how we've started these two games at all. It's the Stanley Cup finals, and you know everyone in this room cares. So much. But we haven't executed. We haven't executed well in the first half of games [in this series]. It baffles everyone in here. It's not a place we want to be in to have to climb out of all the time. Sooner or later, it's going to bite you in the ass.
"The great part about it is we find a way to battle back, but we've got some work to do. Give the Rangers credit, but we've got to execute a lot better than we have."
The Kings will take the 2-0 series lead, but to a man, there's serious recognition of the fact they are not playing the way they can.
"I think we'd rather be up 2-0 for sure, but honestly, I don't know what it is," Kings star center Anze Kopitar said. "We put ourselves in a hole again, and then we came back. They scored a quick one after we scored the second one to make it 4-2, so I think that just shows the character again of this team and resiliency, and we never quit and got it done eventually."
But, added Kopitar on his team's mindset, "I think the [Kings locker] room thinks that there's definitely room for improvement."
Give the speedy Rangers some credit: Their pressure resulted in 33 giveaways by the Kings.
"Their forechecks caused some of our guys some problems, for sure," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It's the strength of their team."
The strength of the Kings is playing a physical, puck-possession game, its foundation laid on a sound defensive approach. Everything stems from protecting the house.
Right now, that's not at all how it looks. The Kings have been shaky in their own zone, given up the kind of chances they're just not used to giving up. They've shown great character once again early in this Cup finals, but it's not typical Kings hockey.
"Are we playing good or are we not? Right now, we're doing a lot of things that aren't in our game, haven't been in our game for years here," said veteran center Jarret Stoll, who scored his team's opening goal. "We're getting away with it I think right now. Don't get me wrong, we did a lot of good things to come back. Down 2-0, down 4-2. Resiliency to come back and battle and push and pull everybody into it, battle for that tying goal and the winning goal again.
"It's just how we're playing. We've got to be honest with how we're playing. We know we got more."
And by now, no one's betting on the Kings not finding a way.
2014 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Sixteen teams began the quest for Lord Stanley's Cup, only two remain: