Published January 13, 2015
With two days off in an all-California series, the Los Angeles Kings seized the opportunity to fly home for two days of practice before Game 4.
After their performance in Game 3, it is clear the defending Stanley Cup champions still need plenty of work.
The Kings went through a short workout at their training complex Sunday after sleeping in their own beds following a 2-1 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
Such easy travel usually isn't possible in the spread-out Western Conference, but Game 4 isn't until Tuesday night at the Shark Tank.
"We were home at pretty much the same time as we would coming from Staples on a regular night," center Anze Kopitar said. "It's a 50-minute flight, so it's pretty quick. I think it's good for us."
Los Angeles' 2-1 loss in Game 3 ended on a power-play goal after two penalty calls that angered and confused the Kings for several reasons. Yet captain Dustin Brown acknowledged the Kings have plenty of concerns beyond the officiating.
Los Angeles leads the series 2-1, but only after getting a 35-save shutout from Jonathan Quick in Game 1 and stealing Game 2 with two late power-play goals.
"We've got to score more than one goal," Brown said. "I mean, Quickie is a great goalie, but at the end of the day, we need to score more than one goal for him. We haven't done that. I think we've only scored one goal three times out of four away games."
Indeed, the Kings have scored six goals in their four road playoff games this spring, half of them in a 3-2 overtime win at St. Louis. The other three road playoff games all have been 2-1 losses — and before that, Los Angeles dropped six straight road games to close the regular season, scoring nine goals in that stretch.
Robyn Regehr was whistled for hooking on a seemingly garden-variety stick play with 41.7 seconds left in regulation in Game 3, and Trevor Lewis followed him into the box with 4.5 seconds left on a goaltender interference call that had the Kings steaming. They claimed Lewis was pushed into Antti Niemi, and questioned why such a dramatic call would be made so late in a game.
The Kings killed off the 5-on-3 disadvantage, but gave up Logan Couture's power-play game-winner. Quick, who shut out the Sharks from the opening minutes until the final buzzer, got a game misconduct for berating the officials who made the decisive call.
"Not happy, but we can't do anything about it," Kopitar said. "Again, it's the position that we put ourselves into that is mind-boggling. It's not the way we want to play and be in that situation. We came close to killing it off, but we've said it all along, you can't give them too many opportunities, because they will score, and they did."
The Kings have demonstrated they know how to regroup after a playoff loss. After dropping the first two games of the postseason in St. Louis, they responded with six straight victories.
The Sharks also present a challenge similar to the Blues in their desire to attack Quick with a high volume of shots. St. Louis outshot Los Angeles in four of the six games, and the Kings have been soundly outshot by San Jose in the current series — but with Quick in top form, the numbers haven't beaten Los Angeles.
San Jose also has revived its dominant power play, which produced both of its goals in Game 3 after the Kings shut out the Sharks in the first two games at Staples Center.
"Especially when the Conn Smythe winner (is) on the defending champion team, I'm going to assume if I was coaching against them, that I'm going to say, 'Shoot lots, and get as much traffic as you can,'" Sutter said. "So I think San Jose has that mindset, as St. Louis did last series. You're trying to get your team to shoot more, and you're trying to get players to go to the net more."
NOTES: F Kyle Clifford was in practice with the Kings again Sunday, but the team won't reveal whether he is close to returning from his undisclosed injury. ... C Jarret Stoll still isn't practicing after taking an illegal hit to the head from San Jose's Raffi Torres in Game 1. ... The Kings again lamented Sharks captain Joe Thornton's dominance in the faceoff circle, where he won 13 of 20 draws in Game 3.