Kings' clinching celebration is put on hold
The Kings chartered a plane Wednesday to bring more than 160 relatives of players and others in the organization to New York for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final -- just in case a celebration turned out to be in order.
Never mind. After the Rangers' 2-1 victory, their guests ended up congregating in the media dining area at Madison Square Garden rather than on the ice partying with the players.
The fact that the Kings ordered the plane did not indicate overconfidence or a lack of respect for the Rangers. It is a common practice among NHL teams with a chance to win the Cup on the road. In fact, the Kings did it the last time they were in the same position: Game 5 against the Devils in Newark in 2012.
They ended up losing that game, 2-1, before returning to Staples Center to secure the Cup with a 6-1 victory.
Their intention is to follow that formula again Friday night, but in the meantime the Kings were left to ponder that their most dominant performance of the series ended up resulting in their first loss.
Blame some of the sort of bad luck the Rangers endured over the series' first three games, including two pucks that stopped tantalizingly close to resulting in scores -- one that made it as far as the goal line and another that stopped an inch or two short when it got caught up in a small bank of snow with 1:11 left in regulation time.
Afterward the Kings insisted it never should have come to that. Yes, they were the far better team over the final 11/2 periods and yes, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had a remarkable game. But what about the earlier parts of the game, when the Rangers came out like the desperate team they were?
"That happens," captain Dustin Brown, who scored the lone Kings goal, said of the two pucks that stopped just short. "Guys are right there to knock them in. But sometimes that's the way it goes and at the end of the day you make your own breaks. If we're on our game for a full 60 minutes, we find a way to get another goal."
Defenseman Drew Doughty agreed, saying, "Yeah, pucks were laying on the goal line. We gave it a lot in the third period. But we slacked in the first [period], and that's where we lost.'
Given the Kings' overall performance, though, Doughty said, "I don't think we have any concern . We could easily have won that game. We just didn't bear down at the right times. It wasn't like they had any great opportunities or anything."
The Kings did credit King Henrik, naturally, but only to a point. "He played well for them," Brown said, "but we need to make it harder on him."
As Brown spoke, several teammates left the dressing room quickly and headed for the dining area. They had guests to greet. Now they'll see them again back home Friday night.