EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It's not that Kings can't handle adversity in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's that they haven't really faced it until the Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils.
For three rounds, the Kings plowed through their opponents like an angry bull through the streets of Pamplona. They jumped to 3-0 leads in every series and never had to go past a fifth game to get to the next round. The script remained unchanged against the Devils through four games, with the Kings taking the first three before dropping the fourth at home.
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Unlike the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes before them, the Devils did something everyone else couldn't -- win two straight against the Kings and force a sixth game, which will take place Monday night at Staples Center.
Save for a temper tantrum from defenseman Drew Doughty in Game 5 of the conference finals against the Coyotes, the Devils became the first team to get the Kings to lose their composure.
"You could see some frustration -- understandable," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "That's the spot we want to put them in. We want to keep that pressure on them."
Things have come easy to the Kings throughout the playoffs, who entered the Final with two losses and jumped to a 3-0 series lead against the Devils. But during Game 5, the Kings found themselves in uncharted territory. They were unable to gain the lead in Game 5 and after Bryce Salvador put the Devils ahead 2-1 in the second period, the Kings lost their cool on a couple of occasions in the third period.
The Devils still have a long way to go if they want to make hockey history by overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the Final, but they were happy to see some cracks in the Kings' aura of invincibility.
"When things don't go your way, there's going to be frustration," Salvador said. "What we've tried to do each series is not to show our frustration and not allow it to be a factor in the series. As you're seeing, momentum comes and goes. When you don't have it, you have to be really particular to not get frustrated. That's kind of been one of our game plans. Hopefully we're frustrating them.
"It's just the situation right now. We're running out of games here and the stakes are getting that much higher. Obviously, L.A. would've liked to have closed it out by now. When you have someone on the ropes, you don't want to let them off the ropes. I think from the standpoint, there's probably a little frustration setting in."
Some Devils felt the Kings didn't get too far off their game and it was just the typical emotions that are seen at this time of the year. But with the clock winding down in the third period and goaltender Martin Brodeur turning aside quality chances, the Kings employed some uncharacteristic tactics.
The Kings were pressing for the tying goal in the third period, buzzing around Brodeur's net and fishing for a loose puck. Brodeur smothered the chance and earned a whistle, but that didn't stop the Kings from attacking. Mike Richards leaned into Brodeur and knocked off his mask, then Jeff Carter pulled Brodeur's jersey over his head.
Brodeur simply laughed and smiled, exhibiting the calm and cool that was slipping away from the Kings.
"I guess that's normal when you're trying to come from behind," defenseman Henrik Tallinder said. "You can't get that last good opportunity. I think that's always frustrating as a team when you can't come up with the last goal. I think it's more how we play. We don't focus too much on what they're doing. But definitely, it feels good now. We have two wins and the momentum and that's what we're trying to build on.
"When they get frustrated, yeah, it helps us."
Tensions boiled over in the final minutes of the third period with the game still hanging in the balance. The Devils' Adam Henrique and Kings forward Jarret Stoll went tumbling to the ice at the feet of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick with 1:36 remaining. After the whistle, Quick began throwing gloved punches into Henrique, which set off a melee.
There's no denying the Kings remain in command of this series, but their grip isn't as tight as it was two games ago. DeBoer knows one more victory by his club in Game 6 would put the Kings on a hot seat they haven't faced at all in the postseason.
"I don't think there's any doubt about that," DeBoer said. "I know if we were in that spot, people expected this to be over two games ago. So the fact that we're in the spot we're in, I don't think there's any hiding from that pressure."
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