LOS ANGELES -- Tracey Kenney and Merry Cheers took a selfie standing in front of a barren plaza at L.A. Live, across from Staples Center. They were among hundreds of disappointed Los Angeles Kings fans pouring out of bars and restaurants at the sports and entertainment district Wednesday night.
"We just took a picture of ourselves with this emptiness in the back, showing how we feel in our heart," Cheers said. "An empty party zone reflects the emptiness in our hearts. This is a total 180 [degree turn] of how we were going to be right now. But we're rooting for it.
"We have hope, knowing that they're going to bring it back home."
That was the feeling downtown after the Kings lost to the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Los Angeles leads the best-of-7 series 3-1. Game 5 is Friday at Staples Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), where the Kings can lift the Stanley Cup in front of their fans for the second time in three seasons.
The city was well-prepared for a Kings win Wednesday, two years to the day after the Kings won their first Cup. There was heavy police presence around Staples Center, including a contingency of about 20 mounted officers who patrolled the area and were seen trotting down Chick Hearn Court, which separates Staples Center and L.A. Live, 30 minutes after the game had ended.
For Game 3, a watch party was held in the plaza where Kenney and Cheers stood, but the official party for Game 4 was held at Club Nokia, where the Kings made it seem like a home game with organist Dieter Ruehle performing. The club used the same in-house sound effects that are used at Staples Center, such as the freight train whistle for goal celebrations.
Unfortunately, Kings fans heard it once. They watched in agony when the Kings twice put the puck on the goal line only to have it swiped away or stop just short. It kind of summed up the night; the only redeeming quality was the prospect of clinching here Friday.
"I'd rather have them finish here," Los Angeles resident Russell Lawton said. "I think the biggest thing is if they lose here Friday, there's momentum. Everything in sports is momentum. The Kings fought hard tonight … they just didn't come out in the end like they normally do. For L.A., I think it would be great to have them win it here."
Lawton started following the Kings in recent years, turned on to the sport by friend Michael Choy, who has been attending Kings games since the Wayne Gretzky era. Choy was one of many fans wearing Kings T-shirts that read "Cockroaches: Hard To Kill and They Won't Go Away," a reference to the never-die manner in which Los Angeles has survived through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Cheers, who's from Long Beach, was wearing a Kelly Hrudey jersey. Kenney, a self-proclaimed third-generation Southern Californian from South Pasadena, wore an early 2000s Kings jersey. Cheers proudly acknowledged she was superstitious and carried an old pom-pom and a streamer from the Cup-clinching 2012 game at Staples Center.
Cheers also had a Stanley Cup pen in her purse.
"It's still in its case," she said. "I haven't used it yet."
Friday might be the time.