With the Los Angeles Kings knotted at one win apiece in their series against the Vancouver Canucks, the stage is set for a series-defining Game 3 Monday night (10 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC).
Coach Terry Murray said composure will be key Monday night as his players face the intense emotion expected at Staples Center.
"It's great for the game, great for the fans," Murray said of the club's first home playoff game. "The emotion is going to be high, we know that. I don't have a lot of concern about it."
"I got the jitters out in Vancouver," Kings forward Wayne Simmonds said. "(This is) probably the biggest game I've ever played in a home building."
Simmonds' game-tying goal Saturday in Vancouver paved the way for Anze Kopitar
's overtime winner.
"Winning that second game (in Vancouver), the fans are going to be a little more excited than they would be coming down here with zero wins," Kopitar said. "I'm really excited for our team and for them to see some playoff action and hopefully the crowd will be rocking."
The Kings are encouraging fans to wear black, as they will dress in their black-and-white third jerseys.
"I hear it's a 'black out,' so that will be pretty cool," Ryan Smyth said. "Every other rink I've played in it's either been red or white. It's going to be interesting and exciting. We've got to make sure that we can control our composure and play simple."
Composure is a theme that runs through the Kings' dressing room as the youngish club faces playoff hurdles game by game.
"It's all about relishing opportunities and enjoying it, seizing the moment," said the 34-year-old Smyth, playing in his 10th postseason. "That's what playoff hockey is all about, it's a game of inches. You're up and you're down, but it's a matter of keeping an even keel."
Kopitar rebounded from a pointless Game 1, scoring the overtime winner in Vancouver. Simmonds tied the game, while Drew Doughty
and Jack Johnson chipped in 3 assists combined. Smyth says that the young guns need to fend off any backsliding.
"Each game is very important (as) you try to build on momentum," Smyth told NHL.com. "The young kids, so to speak, played well. I don't call these guys 'inexperienced.' They're hungry and excited. Kopy (Kopitar) getting the winner was huge, and coming into LA, the momentum's going to carry forth with our fans."
During the series, the Canucks have leveled their sights at Doughty, and the 20-year-old defenseman has borne the brunt of a lot of on-ice trash talk, notably from Alex Burrows. Murray says that there's a measure of respect for Doughty's abilities at hand.
"(You) see a young guy like that targeted by the other team, that they're going to finish on him physically, they're going to get their hits, they're going to talk and try to get him into situations like in Game 1 where he retaliates," Murray said of Vancouver's intentions. "Drew is not a kid who's going to go away from that stuff. He knows that his teammates will be there to support him. Clearly, that's a topic of conversation in the locker room and that is respect for him because he is a dynamic player for us. If I had Drew Doughty
on the other team, I'd do the same thing."
Murray said that earlier in his coaching career, during big games against the New York Rangers, his staff and players set their sights on Brian Leetch the exact same way that Vancouver has targeted Doughty.
"Composure, discipline is a huge part of the playoff situation," Murray said. "You're going to get in some scrums out there. If you're going to be involved in some scrums, some pushing and shoving, you have to make sure that you initiate, not retaliate. They're going to pick one guy out of the scrum who's thrown the last punch."
"He'll take a couple of shifts off," joked Doughty about Burrows' propensity for talk. "The last game wasn't as bad as the first one. He knows now that I'm not going to get involved, that I'm going to ignore it. In the first game I was in the box a couple of times. I played better in Game 2."
Doughty says that controlled emotion is key.
"You take that one penalty and it can cost your team the game," Doughty said. "You can see that the other night when we capitalized in overtime against Vancouver. Not that they didn't show composure, but taking that penalty cost them and we won that game."
Murray is happy that there's a lot of yapping and emotion in the series, but says that there's a time and place for talking, but the pre-game warm-ups isn't it.
"It has to be reigned in (during) the warm-ups," Murray said. "You're out there to get prepared for the game. It's not where you're going to be cruising the red line, getting verbal shots or throwing pucks at each other like it used to be years ago. I talked to (Richard) Clune the other day, he's got to rein that in. It has to be controlled all the time. You can't let the opponent turn the table on you and bring it back the other way."
Some of Hollywood's young stars are playing it cool.
"I don't think there's any problem," Johnson says of the Kings' return to top billing after eight years. "We're just looking forward to Game 3. I don't think that anyone's worried about the fact that this is the first time that the Kings have been in the playoffs for a while.
"We're just having fun playing," Johnson added. "The bigger the games, the more you've got to raise your game."
Author: Josh Brewster | NHL.com Correspondent