CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Kings lost four games in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to the franchise's first championship. Saturday night, they will try to avoid losing four in one series and extend their bid for a repeat.
Like most of the games they've played during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Kings' Game 4 loss was a tight-checking, one-goal affair. Los Angeles had a lead late in the second period and was closing in on a 16th consecutive victory at Staples Center. But a late goal in the second and an early goal in the third proved to be the difference for the Chicago Blackhawks, who can knock out the defending champs and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years with a win in Game 5 at United Center.
This is not the first time these Kings have faced elimination. The San Jose Sharks had a chance to dethrone them in the Western Conference Semifinals, and the Kings responded with one of their better games of this postseason in Game 7 at Staples Center.
With that in mind, here are three reasons the Kings can fight their way back into this series, beginning with Game 5 on Saturday night.
Players often draw from experience when facing a challenge, something to give them a mental edge or point them in the right direction. Los Angeles did not face this level of adversity in the 2012 playoffs, but there are other ways to look at the current situation.
The Kings need to win three games in a row to advance. That is something they did four times in 2012, when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in every series. They also won three in a row (four, actually) against the St. Louis Blues after dropping the first two contests of the series.
Chicago has been a dominant force in the NHL this season, a worthy wire-to-wire Presidents' Trophy winner. But the Detroit Red Wings proved during the previous round the Blackhawks can be vulnerable. The Blackhawks had not lost three games in a row all season until the Red Wings won Games 2, 3 and 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. The Blackhawks responded with three straight victories of their own to win that series.
"You don't have to look very far. You look at the opponent we're playing, they were in the exact same situation and they came out of it in the last round," Los Angeles defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "It's something that is very doable. We're preparing to win one game tomorrow and that's as far as we're looking right now."
Jonathan Quick gave up a bad goal in Game 4. He had been so amazing in the playoffs for so long, it seems anytime he yields a bad goal -- like in Game 1 of the first round against St. Louis or in Game 5 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final -- it is a newsworthy moment.
It is plainly obvious by now, but Quick has the ability to steal this series for the Kings. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 86 of 88 shots during the Blackhawks' previous three-game losing streak, making several incredible saves. Los Angeles will need that level of play from Quick, and he can provide it.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Friday that any team that tries to outscore the Blackhawks in an open, high-scoring affair is going to lose. That's not the Los Angeles way, anyway. The Kings will look to tighten their defense and rely on Quick to lead the way in goal.
"Jon has been the backbone of the team ever since he came here," captain Dustin Brown said. "A big reason why we've been successful as a team is, it all starts with him back there. If there is one thing that is never going to waver, it's the confidence we have in that guy. Going back through the last few years, there have been some times when we have struggled as a team and he's allowed us to win games 1-0, 1-0 in shootouts during the regular season. We never question that guy. He's huge for us."
3. New-look second line
The solution without Richards was to move Jeff Carter to the middle and place rookie Tyler Toffoli on his line with Dustin Penner. The result has been the emergence of Los Angeles' most consistent and productive line in the series.
Carter has been dynamic, particularly in Game 4, and has 12 shots on goal in three games since the move. Penner scored in Game 4 and has had several other chances, and Toffoli has the only power-play goal of the series for the Kings and four points in the past three games.
The other lines are struggling to produce consistent chances, but this new-look line has been a good one for the Kings. If it can lead the charge, the other trios could chip in and follow.
Los Angeles isn't likely to find a barrage of offense against Chicago, but with Quick in net the Kings can find a way with two or three goals.
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