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Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup momentum got thrown under a bus

Kings were up 3-0, poised to sweep New Jersey in Cup Final. But Devils found motivation upon arriving at Staples Center for Game 4 to find a city preparing to party. Now it's 3-2, with Game 6 Monday.

June 10, 2012|By Lisa Dillman

This was like Oscar night merging with the biggest night in the NHL.

And the Stanley Cup goes to . . .

Of course, the New Jersey Devils had other ideas on the matter, facing elimination Wednesday night against the Kings in Game 4. Then again in Game 5 on Saturday in Newark, N.J.. And now Game 6 Monday night at Staples Center.

You can pin the beginnings of the momentum shift to when the Devils pulled up to Staples Center on Wednesday, trailing 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final, with the looming coronation hard to miss.

"When your bus has to pull by 10 limos parked on the road ready for the after-party, that's definitely motivation," Devils Coach Peter DeBoer said Sunday.

The Kings' first two attempts at closing out the championship series were similar in that they never led in either Game 4 or Game 5. But they didn't play poorly, especially in the latter game. While it might appear as though the Devils are finding holes, they are not gaping ones.

"We're still in obviously a really good spot," said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who went pointless and had no shots on goal in Game 5. "If somebody would have told us that we were going to go up 3-2 going home to have the chance to close it out, I think everybody would sign that paper."

What went so right for the Kings in the first three games happened to New Jersey in the last two. The goals getting past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick have been fluke-ish, the Devils' first goal in Game 5 coming after his stick-handling miscue and the other caroming off the shoulder of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov.

"I thought we had a pretty good period last night, but then we got away from it a little bit," Kopitar said. "That's probably the case. When you do go down, you try to do a little extra stuff, you go away from your program."

A lot of focus has landed on Kings captain Dustin Brown, who has one assist in the Final. But the power outage is not limited to Brown. Center Mike Richards, with two assists in the Final, has scored one goal since Game 4 of the second-round series against St. Louis.

"The only challenge with our team is that we're not scoring a lot of goals," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. "So that's something that we faced, this group, most of the year, right? Every little mistake is magnified."

The Kings' players were candid about outside issues affecting them before Game 4.

"I think a lot of us before Game 4 were distracted with family members and friends, the Cup coming in the building," said defenseman Drew Doughty, who had a point in each of the first four games of the Final. "A lot of things we have to put aside. Family always comes first for everyone, but at this point of the year, the team has to come first."

Even the experienced Richards spoke about being nervous. Richards won an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 2010 and played in the Stanley Cup Final on the losing side two years ago with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I think that's a lesson learned," Doughty said. "We realize a lot of us didn't play at our potential in Game 4. We were nervous, worried about other things. All of us in the room were kind of frustrated that we were thinking about things ahead of time. Darryl made sure that wasn't going to happen this time. We'll be well-prepared for Game 6."

The Devils are just the third team that has trailed 3-0 in the Final and extended the series to Game 6 — and the first to do so since 1945. It was also the first time the Kings have lost consecutive games in the playoffs; that last happened in the final two games of the regular season.

Only one team has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup Final — the Toronto Maple Leafs, against the Detroit Red Wings in 1942. DeBoer was not getting into historical implications but addressed the issue of momentum shifting in this series.

"I don't think there's any doubt about that," he said. "I know if we were in that spot, people expected this to be over two games ago," he said. "So the fact that we're in the spot we're in, I don't think there's any hiding from that pressure."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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