The Los Angeles Kings are finding it most difficult to close out the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals but insist they are not feeling pressure from their first real taste of playoff adversity.
A day after the Devils staved off elimination for the second straight game, the Kings returned home determined to focus on their 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series rather than their string of losses heading into Monday's Game Six.
"��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," Anze Kopitar, who leads the Kings with 19 playoff points, told reporters on Sunday.
"��It's just a matter of going out there and getting it done."
Having squandered two chances to clinch their first Stanley Cup in the Kings' 45-year history, a National Hockey League title that once seemed inevitable is suddenly in question.
In their red-hot race to the championship, Los Angeles lost just two games in their first three playoff rounds and after taking a 3-0 lead on New Jersey had a chance to match the 1988 Edmonton Oilers for the best post-season record of 16-2.
But now the Kings have to be concerned with ending up on the wrong side of history as only one team - the 1942 Detroit Red Wings - has ever lost the Stanley Cup final after racing out to a 3-0 series lead.
"��I don't think we feel any pressure. Not at all," said Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter. ��"We expected a long, hard series out of the New Jersey Devils, and that's what we're getting."
New Jersey had quietly played the Kings nearly evenly even as they fell into a series hole. The first two matchups between the teams resulted in nail-biting overtime wins for Los Angeles.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, was overshadowed by Kings' counterpart Jonathan Quick early in the series but has held Los Angeles to two goals over the last two games to shift momentum in New Jersey's favor.
"��Marty is playing a pretty good series," said Dustin Brown, the Kings' second-leading scorer. "��He made some pretty big saves, especially in Games Four and Five for them. I think it's sticking with our system, making it harder on Marty."
Los Angeles applied pressure in their Saturday's Game Five loss, hitting the post on a few of their chances, but they may now be feeling it after their magical playoff run has been grounded by the Devils.
��"It's the Stanley Cup Final. If it were easy everybody would have the Cup," said the Kings' Mike Richards. "��At the same time, if you work for it, it's going to be rewarding."
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)