This has been one strange Stanley Cup final. Really, really strange.
Start with the fact the Los Angeles Kings had played with the lead for exactly 0.7 seconds through the first seven periods yet held a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against the New York Rangers and led 1-0 in Game 3 after 20 minutes.
Really, really strange.
Then, with the Stanley Cup within their grasp, the Kings thoroughly outplayed the Rangers in New York in Game 4, outshooting the hosts 41-19, but could only manage to get one puck past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Not only that, two Kings shots stopped on the goal-line. Just freaking sat there.
Really, really strange.
Kings defenceman Drew Doughty had a different word for it.
"It sucks," he said. "We should have put those in the net.
"They were just lying there for us. We just got to get hungrier around the net.
"To get pucks past this goalie and this team, you just have to be hungrier than them and more determined than we were tonight."
Added Kings rookie Tanner Pearson: "We were close. We tap those in and it's a whole different hockey game."
Kings captain Dustin Brown scoffed at the two shots that came up just inches short and put the blame on himself and his team.
"That stuff happens in the game," he said. "It's about finding a way to win.
"When we play better in other areas of the game, it doesn't matter about those chances."
Steady as she goes
The Kings, of all teams, know what it takes to get back in a series after falling behind 3-0. They did it in the first round against the San Jose Sharks. Brown was asked the level of frustration with not getting the sweep over the Rangers in the final.
"None, really," he said. "We didn't play well enough to win the game and that's on us.
"It's about finding our game. We weren't good enough in all three zones.
"I think they came out hard and we expected that. Again, we have to worry about ourselves right now and how we're playing. Tonight, we weren't good enough."
Home, sweet home
The Kings will take another shot at winning their second Cup in three seasons when they host the Rangers at Staples Center on Friday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).
"We're going back home," Doughty said. "That's where we won it last time so, hopefully, we can do the same thing this year."
The Kings have done a masterful job in this year's playoffs of putting bad or disappointing games behind them and focusing on the task at hand. Brown doesn't expect that to change.
"It's about resetting and reloading," Brown said. "It's about getting yourself ready mentally to do the right things to put us in a position to win. We need to do it for a full 60 [minutes]."
Stay the course
Doughty said the shots on goal were a pretty good indication that the Kings played well enough to win Wednesday. He doesn't expect the plan to change Friday.
"The team game was good and we had a lot of good opportunities," he said. "We didn't really give up too much against.
"Both of their goals were pretty bad bounces against us. The bottom line is we didn't score goals when we needed to and that's why we lost the game."
It was said before the series that Lundqvist was going to have to steal a game or two in Los Angeles if the Rangers stood any chance at all against the prohibitive favorites. He lost Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles and now has to run the table if New York is to win it all.
Doughty said the Kings cannot let the Rangers stopper get into their heads.
"He played very well," Doughty said of Lundqvist. "But we have to do a better job of getting in front of him and get pucks by him."
Follow Mike Brophy on Twitter @HockeyBroph
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