NEWARK, N.J. -- After seven weeks of waltzing through the Western Conference and to within one win of the Stanley Cup, the Los Angeles Kings have arrived at their biggest challenge to date in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The New Jersey Devils defeated the Kings 2-1 on Saturday night, and have now won two straight contests against Los Angeles. That is as many losses as the Kings had while accruing 15 of the 16 necessary victories to claim the Cup.
"They don't just hand this thing out," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "It is difficult. It is hard to do. It is a test, and you got to be the better team to close this thing out."
For the second straight game, the Kings put only one shot past New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur. After Jonathan Quick was the star of the first three games, holding the Devils to just two goals, now Brodeur has taken the lead by stifling the Kings.
Offense has been at a premium in this series, and the Kings only have eight regulation goals in five contests. Some of the same things the Devils were saying after the first two games came the Kings' players Saturday night.
"I thought the game before we certainly weren't good enough," forward Justin Williams said. "Tonight we weren't good enough by a little hair. It is a game of inches. There's battles going on all over the ice. We're losing just a few more than we're winning."
Added Greene: "It would be more frustration if we weren't getting chances. That's it. Obviously it is frustrating to go through the game and hit those pipes, but you just got to keep plugging, keep plugging and eventually they will go in."
Finding more offense will be the main objective when this series shifts back to Los Angeles on Monday. Another big part of the deal for the Kings will be responding to this test of their mental fortitude.
They have had two chances to win the Stanley Cup, and it would be the first time for nearly everyone in the dressing room. It hasn't happened, and now the Devils will spend the time from now until puck drop for Game 6 talking about the surge of confidence and belief they have obtained in the past two contests.
"Sure, there is anxiety," Williams said. "We haven't lost two games in a row [before]. We've played pretty hard. This is the Stanley Cup Final -- it isn't supposed to be easy. This is a grind. They're a heck of a team over there with a lot of character and a lot of grit. They battled hard to keep that one-goal lead.
"I'm [upset], just like everyone else is in that dressing room. We're disappointed. We've had two chances to close it out and hoist that Cup and accomplish our dream. We haven't quite gotten it yet. We have two more chances. We're going back home."
There have been 26 teams in the history of the Cup Final obtain a 3-0 advantage. Only two teams that fell behind reached Game 6 before the Devils, and none had since 1945.
The only team to come all the way back was the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942. Los Angeles players started answering questions about that after the game Saturday, and it will probably continue until Monday night.
Blocking that outside noise out and focusing on Game 6 will also be high on the team's priority list.
"That doesn't matter to me one bit," Greene said. "The only thing to me is what is going on in our room and that's it and winning this next game. ... We've been lucky in the playoffs, keeping series to low games. You're going to lose two games in a row. That's why you work so hard to win three. That's it. Right now, we've got the advantage of going home and we've got to look at it like that and get our going."
Added defenseman Rob Scuderi: "It is a series. They got their second win. We got three. As disappointing as it is, you have to put it behind you. I don't think anyone is ... I don't deny that we're disappointed, but I don't think we're at the point of panic."
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