LOS ANGELES — While they are the team in the driver’s seat, the Los Angeles Kings need to come out with more desperation for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, according to Drew Doughty.
The slick-skating defenceman remembers 2012 when the Kings raced into a 3-0 lead and then couldn’t put the New Jersey Devils away until Game 6. Los Angeles had a similar 3-0 lead over the New York Rangers this time out, only to let the Blueshirts off the hook in Game 4.
“As a team I don’t think we talk about (2012) but at the same time we all know that we failed to close it off two times,” Doughty said after the Kings’ morning skate ahead of Game 5 Friday. “That’s always going to be in the back of our minds but what we can do is we can learn from that experience.
“We know what we did wrong and we know why we let them back into the series. That’s why tonight, we figure we have to close it out because the more games we give them, the more life they get. Especially here at Staples (Center), our home arena, it’s a very important game for us tonight.”
So how do you play with more desperation?
“It should just come from within,” said Doughty. “We’ve played these guys for four games now. If you’re not wanting to beat that team so bad by this point, something’s wrong with you. We’ve developed a battle, a war with these guys. They’re working their butts off and we just need to outwork them. We need to want that more. We need to play as if it is a Game 7 because we know how well this team can play in Game 7s. So why not just treat it as one tonight.”
Going into Friday, the Rangers were 5-0 when facing elimination in the 2014 playoffs. New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist led the way in such games with a 1.00 goals-against average and .971 save percentage.
The Rangers’ record in elimination games was 11-2 dating back to 2012. And New York was 8-0 at home with its back against the wall dating back to 2008.
While Kings coach Darryl Sutter downplayed the importance of the start — his answer at a pre-game media availability was a short and somewhat confusing stream of consciousness — the Rangers have held a first-period edge throughout the playoffs.
New York has outscored its opponents 26-12 in the first period this post-season, including 5-2 in the final.
“Probably our worst period,” said Doughty.
Asked what’s been the issue in the first 20 minutes, veteran Willie Mitchell offered up “Not scoring” and then laughed.
On a more serious vein, he said it was just part of the ebb and flow of the playoffs.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, perhaps trying to send a message, had said the Kings played their best game in the 2-1 loss Wednesday.
Kings forward Anze Kopitar said Los Angeles can play better.
“And we’ll have to play better tonight to close it off,” he said. “I think there were some positives, yes, but there’s also some stuff we can improve on and we look to do that tonight.”
Top of the list is making life more difficult for Lundqvist, who was immense in a 40-save performance in Game 4.
“Obviously he’s a good goalie and the shots he’s going to see he’s going to stop more often than not,” said Kopitar. “Just get in front of him, make it tough for him and try to get a couple of ugly ones.”
Said Doughty: “He played well last game but at the same time we didn’t do enough to get to him. We didn’t have bodies in front. He let out quite a few rebounds that we didn’t jump on last game as well.”
Friday’s game is the 26th of the playoffs for the Kings, matching a single-year NHL record set by the 1987 Flyers and 2004 Flames (who both lost seven-game series in the Cup final).
Doughty declined to guarantee a win on the night but did say: “There’s no way that we’re going to play a bad game tonight, that’s for sure.
“We are fully prepared for this game. We want this so bad. We want to win this more than them, there’s no doubt about that.”
Vigneault, whose team did not take part in a morning skate, said New York will also be ready as it continues its quest to keep the final alive.
“I feel that we need to focus on tonight,” he said. “We know that we can play better than we did last game. We’re going to have to.
“We’ve played well in this building. We’ve played real well on the road. We need to put our best game on the ice tonight.”