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Kings now look to 'steal one' and extend series

by Curtis Zupke / Los Angeles Kings

LOS ANGELES -- The previous time the Los Angeles Kings faced a 3-1 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they were an up-and-coming team with young talent spilling out of their pocket. General manager Dean Lombardi's long-term plan was opening like a tulip.

They won Game 5 on the road against the San Jose Sharks before being bounced from the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals in six.

"I think we kind of played loose then," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said Thursday after his team fell into an identical hole against the Chicago Blackhawks in this year's Western Conference Final.

"We weren't expected to win that series against San Jose, I don't think. Now that we're down 3-1, people aren't expecting us to [win] so we can go in there as if we have no pressure on us. We can go in there and play our game -- play hard and steal one from them in front of their home fans."

It was a positive outlook for what looks like a formidable task.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are on the brink of elimination after a 3-2 loss to the Blackhawks in Game 4 at Staples Center, where streamers did not fall for the first time since L.A.'s prior home loss March 23.

Game 5 of the best-of-7 series is Saturday at United Center in Chicago (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

Los Angeles survived an elimination game this postseason when it won Game 7 against San Jose in the conference semifinals. It also came back from 0-2 down to eliminate the St. Louis Blues in a six-game conference quarterfinal.

Ever-blunt Kings coach Darryl Sutter threw a wet blanket on that history, though.

"We're not looking at it like last night or 40 years ago or however long," Sutter said. "We're looking at it like the next game only."

Captain Dustin Brown played along with the question. Los Angeles' mental strength has carried it in these playoffs, allowing it to push through with two goals scored on most nights and heavy lifting from goalie Jonathan Quick.

"We've been through a lot as a group and never been faced with a situation like this," Brown said. "We're leaning on each other at this point. It's not going to be one individual. That's been the strength of this group for a few years now, really relying on each other and trusting each other when we get in a tough spot."

The Game 7 win against San Jose and the clinching victory against St. Louis came at home. But the Kings no longer are able to win this series at Staples Center -- they have to win the next three games, two of which are at United Center.

During a 15-game home winning streak, the Kings held opponents scoreless in first period 14 times and outscored them 15-2 in the opening 20 minutes. The two goals were by St. Louis in Game 4 of that series.

Chicago's Bryan Bickell scored on a 55-foot shot in the first period Thursday. When the buzzer sounded, an inordinate number of Blackhawks fans stayed to watch their team -- a trail of red jerseys snaking through the lower bowl of the arena.

It was a sign of things to come Saturday, when United Center figures to be a sea of red, white and black.

"We've got to be ready," Doughty said. "We're going to watch some video and prepare that way. But I think the most important thing is everyone just looking at themselves in the mirror and expecting the best from each and every one of us. Without that, there's no way we can beat this team. They're a good team, but if our top players lead the way and our other guys follow, that's the way we're going to win these next three games."

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