EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The additions of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter helped propel the Los Angeles Kings to the 2012 Stanley Cup. The two are supposed to be major pieces in what was expected to be a long run as championship contenders.
It hasn't turned out as scripted, but Richards and Carter aren't done telling the story of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The forwards were factors in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round against the San Jose Sharks, a 4-3 overtime loss, and it's something the Kings need to tap into down 3-0 in the best-of-7 series going into Game 4 on Thursday at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. PT; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, CSN-CA, FS-W).
Richards, a former captain with the Philadelphia Flyers, said it's a challenge the Kings should embrace.
"It's easy to say," Richards said. "But I think, as a group, you just have to know that one, it's not going to be easy, and two, it is possible.
"It's a good opportunity for us to show -- everybody's kind of writing us off right now -- a good opportunity to show how resilient we are right now as a group. We've done good things in the past and this is just another thing we have to be excited to accomplish."
Coach Darryl Sutter split up Richards and Carter in Game 3, and spread out all the lines, and it seemed to work. Richards, playing with Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, played 18:49 minutes in Game 3, his most in the series. Carter scored off a deflection in front of the net, the kind of dirty goal that defines the Kings.
Much has been made of San Jose's third and fourth lines outplaying Los Angeles' in the first two games, and it's easy to forget marquee players matter too. Richards had an off season, and Carter struggled to score down the stretch, but Sutter liked them in Game 3.
"Probably [our] better players played better," Sutter said. "Our top guys played better last night. We played better, meaning a little more determination in our game.
"I think Mike and [Marian Gaborik] stepped their games up last night in terms of the compete and the determination, and I think that, obviously, for us to win a game against San Jose, there are going to have to be two or three more guys do that too. That's clear."
Richards and Carter were members of the 2010 Flyers who became the third team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit, coming back to defeat the Boston Bruins. Carter didn't play in that series because he was injured, but said he remembers how the Flyers approached it with the clichéd one-game-at-a-time mindset.
"It's what it has to be," Carter said. "3-0 is a big hole, but it's been done before. You win one game and you start to get some momentum going. We have to go into their building and win two games. You have to approach it as one game. You win that one game, you put a little doubt in their mind, and they know that we're coming. That's the way it has to be."
Richards sustained a concussion in the playoffs last season, and the Kings were never the same and eventually were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks. The Kings were banged-up throughout that postseason yet managed to force a six-game series in the conference quarterfinals.
Sutter said this postseason isn't quite as bad, injury-wise, but defenseman Drew Doughty played through what appeared to be a reinjured shoulder in Game 3. He missed a few shifts but returned to play 28:31.
"Obviously, you're talking about Drew," Sutter said. "Drew's a tough guy. He's a tough guy. He's going to go out and play. That's the way it works."
Sutter identified Doughty as one of his top players who welcomes these high-pressure situations.
"He's got to do for us what [San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard] Vlasic does for them," Sutter said. "That's kind of how you match it up. He wants to play and that's a good thing. I like them guys who try to stay out there and are not trying to get off because of who's on the ice. He's a guy who wants to go back out and not come off the ice. That's a good trait to have.
"That's what those guys who win championships, or are big parts of a team's success, that's why they are like that. We can all sit there and watch and say, 'Oh, he can really skate or 'he can really shoot' or whatever. But there's something else special about top players. That's why they're all top players because there's something else there."
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