There's no panic in Los Angeles after twice missing out on chances to win the Stanley Cup. At least that was the company line on Sunday, as the Kings discussed Game 6.
Many of them took an optional skate less than one day after a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 5, and seemed upbeat afterward.
"I think we're a confident bunch," Kings center Mike Richards said at the team's El Segundo, Calif., practice facility. "We obviously wouldn't be here if we didn't have the confidence."
But Martin Brodeur, the 40-year-old goalie who helped the Devils contain the Kings to just two goals combined in Games 4 and 5, said the Kings have to be questioning themselves, at least a little.
"That's a bit of the doubt that we wanted to put in their heads, right from the get-to. But it took us a while to be able to get to that," Brodeur said after the Devils skated at the El Segundo rink. "We dug ourselves a really big hole that's going to be tough to overcome. But it's getting a little more realistic every day. So, we're looking forward to challenging them again. It takes a lot of pressure for them to try to win it and close the deal.
"It's the hardest game to win, the last one. Not just the Stanley Cup finals, but any series."
Saturday's defeat was Los Angeles' second in the last four days, after previously losing just two games all postseason. Game 6 is tonight at the Staples Center.
"The mood's good. I mean, you can talk about doubt, because we've lost two games in a row, and that's something this team hasn't done in a while. But we've been playing good hockey," Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown said. "When you sit down and really start to realize the position we're in - up 3-2 on home ice - I think most teams would have taken that at the start of the series."
Especially when you consider the fact that Los Angeles is a No. 8 seed, and has never won a Stanley Cup in the franchise's 45-year existence.
Perhaps, after rolling through three rounds, the Kings are finally starting to feel pressure. With a Los Angeles waiting for the NHL's top prize last Wednesday, the Devils stole some of the Kings' thunder, got back in the series and posted a 3-1 win. Then, the screws tightened Saturday, when New Jersey posted a 2-1 victory in Newark, N.J., ending the Kings' NHL record 10-game road postseason win streak.
So not only does Los Angeles have to worry about losing the Cup, it also has the added burden of possibly becoming only the second NHL team to waste a 3-0 lead in the finals. Detroit fell apart in 1942, when it blew a three-game edge and lost to Toronto.
Veteran forward Simon Gagne said the Kings are used to adversity after a season in which coach Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray in December and the team didn't nail down a playoff berth until the final week of the season. And it has since returned. After going 15-2 through three-and-a-half rounds, Los Angeles has hit a bump.
"We know how to deal with it," Gagne said. "It seems in the playoffs, we had it a little bit easier than people think. At the same time, we had to go into Vancouver and win Game 5, and to Phoenix, Game 5. Now, we have another challenge in front of us. It's going to be the first time we're in a series (at) 3-2. It will be a first challenge for us and we'll take that, for sure."
Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador, who scored the game-winner in Game 5, said there's pressure on both teams in Game 6. The Devils face the prospect of win, or the season is over. The Kings know they will get another chance on Wednesday in New Jersey if the series continues. As far as matching the Maple Leafs' feat from long ago, Salvador said the Devils aren't chasing history.
"At the end of the day, it's a best-of-seven series," he said. "And if it goes seven games, it doesn't really matter how you got there. It only matters who's going to win the series."