Gerard Gallant's message sounded a lot like his words from about eight months ago, before the Vegas Golden Knights played their first game.
"The pressure is off us now," the coach said on a conference call Tuesday. "We're going to go out and play and work hard and go have some fun. So we'll see what happens."
For the first time, the Golden Knights are on the brink of losing a Stanley Cup Playoff series after a 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at Capital One Arena on Monday.
[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]
Washington leads the best-of-7 series 3-1, and history is not on the Golden Knights' side; teams trailing 3-1 in the Final have lost the series 32 of 33 times since the best-of-7 format was adopted in 1939. The only team to rally from down 3-1 to win the Cup was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who trailed 3-0 against the Detroit Red Wings.
Game 5 is at Vegas on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
The narrative has changed dramatically for Vegas, which won the Pacific Division (51-24-7, 109 points) in its inaugural season and eased through the first three rounds of the playoffs, going 12-3 to eliminate the Los Angeles Kings (4-0), San Jose Sharks (4-2) and Winnipeg Jets (4-1).
"Let's face it," Gallant said. "We started the season and there were no expectations for our hockey club. Did the expectations change going into the playoffs? Sure they did, because we had a great regular season and we won the Pacific Division.
"Again, it was about coming to play and enjoying our time and working hard and giving ourselves a chance to win. That's what we've done all season long."
Video: Lawton discusses the performance of Vegas in Game 4
Fervent support at home has lifted the Golden Knights from the start. They were 29-10-2 at T-Mobile Arena in the regular season and are 7-2 there in the playoffs. Their only home losses have come against the Sharks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round and against the Capitals in Game 2 of the Final.
Gallant said he would like to see the same effort in Game 5 that the Golden Knights displayed in the opening minutes of Game 4, which included Vegas forward James Neal missing an open net at 4:31 of the first period.
"We went out there and did what we wanted to do," Gallant said. "We wanted to have a great start to the hockey game. The first 10 minutes, I thought we really played well.
"We hit two goal posts. (Braden) Holtby made a couple of good saves. We missed an open net. That's hockey. I don't know what to tell you. We came out and tried to accomplish what we did, but the only thing we didn't do was put the puck in the net.
"I can't tell our guys we're not playing well. We played really well the first 10 minutes."
Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Gallant on how Vegas can rally back
This is the first time the Golden Knights have lost three consecutive games since Feb. 26-March 2. They have not lost four straight at any point.
The Golden Knights were better in many areas Monday than they were in a 3-1 loss in Game 3, but Gallant said they gave up far too many prime scoring chances; the Capitals scored three times in a span of 9:45 to take a 3-0 lead in Game 4.
"You have to give your goalie a chance to make those saves," Gallant said. "On those plays, there was no chance for [Marc-Andre Fleury] to make those saves.
"Just play better defensively. Again, there's too many guys staring at the puck carrier and we're leaving the back side open too much. Make sure we're paying attention to the guys behind the puck and away from the puck.
"Marc will make the save on the guy shooting the puck. We just have to make sure we're taking away the passes."
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