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L.A. Kings express mixed emotions about their play in Stanley Cup Final

Willie Mitchell celebrates with his teammates after scoring

Willie Mitchell celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Rangers during Game 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at the Staples Center on June 7, 2014 in Los Angeles. Credit: Getty Images / Kevork Djansezian

Willie Mitchell called it the Kings' "Rope-a-Dope" strategy, which on the surface sounds like an opening for New York tabloid headline writers eager to welcome our Stanley Cup Final guests for Games 3 and 4.

"Dopes? Are you talking to us?"

But in fact, the L.A. defenseman, one of the stars of Game 2, was using some gallows humor directed at the Kings themselves when he spoke to reporters late Saturday night in the happy-but-subdued winning dressing room.

It was part of a weeklong theme for the Kings, who expressed mixed emotions about their play. They won three overtime games in seven days yet never led for a second until the second the games ended.

On one hand, they naturally are pleased to have eliminated the Blackhawks and gone up 2-0 against the Rangers, who have had two-goal leads on four separate occasions in the Final.

On the other, they are frustrated with the shaky starts, living-on-the-edge comebacks and failure to play what they consider their "A" game. After both of the two games, it often was difficult to tell from the Kings' words that they had won.

If they are correct that they can be much better than this, it does not bode well for the Rangers.

"There's huge room for improvement; we know that," Mike Richards said. "We can only get better. That's the positive that we need to get out of this."

That -- not handing the Rangers two disheartening losses -- is the positive?

Here's more from Anze Kopitar: "We've been talking about it after Game 1. We've been talking about it after Game 2. We can play better hockey and we've done it before."

Said Jarret Stoll, "Right now, we're doing a lot of things that aren't in our game . . . It's just how we're playing. We have to be honest with how we're playing."

After Game 1, the Kings blamed their sluggish start on the quick turnaround from an OT win in Game 7 in Chicago three nights earlier. There was no such excuse Saturday, when they trailed 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2.

Then they did what they did in the first game against the Rangers: dominated the third period.

"It's hard to explain," Dwight King said. "Obviously, once we get the ball rolling with one goal, I think everybody on the team feeds off that."

Captain Dustin Brown, who scored the winner in the second overtime period Saturday, said the key to the team's resilience is that it does not alter its course regardless of the score. "The mentality of our team is very black-and-white," he said.

But everyone in black Saturday realized that as well as the formula has worked recently, expecting it to continue would be dopey.

"Sooner or later,'' Mitchell said, "it's going to bite you in the [butt]."

"I guess the great part about it is that we find a way to battle back, but we have some work to do -- again . . . We are not happy in here. We have had terrible starts the past two games and there's no rhyme or reason for it. We find a way, but we're going to need a lot better than that."

New York Sports