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Kings regroup after devastating loss

by Curtis Zupke
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There were confirmed reports that the sun came up for the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday morning.

The team gathered for a rather upbeat practice session and conducted its usual off-day routine. Asked what he did first, coach Terry Murray joked, "Said ‘Good morning' to my wife."

Murray did not change up his lines, which would have been a understandable a day after one of the worst games in franchise history, a 6-5 overtime loss to San Jose in which Los Angeles blew a 4-0 lead in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Instead, Murray thought it was important to retain a sense of stability and put Game 3 in their rear-view mirror.

"You've got to be able to deal with this kind of adversity," Murray said. "It's all about attitude right now. To me, this is a touchstone kind of a game for these young players. Someday they're going to look back at this and they're going to say, ‘OK, it happens. We remember what it was. We talked about. We know we have to be better in this situation."

That seemed to resonate with the players, who flashed some smiles during their skate and were positive afterward.

"There's no reason not to feel upbeat," goalie Jonathan Quick said. "We're playing in a tournament right now that everybody wants to play in. We have the opportunity to be part of this, and there's no reason not to be upbeat. We're not down, 3-0. It's a 2-1 series. We're right there."

That's not to say that the Kings aren't aware of their issues:

They did not seal off the passing lanes against San Jose and simply did not take care of the puck. They got into an exchange of rushes against one of the more explosive offensive teams in the league, a basic veer of the game plan for a defense-based team like L.A.

The Kings lost 39 of 64 faceoffs, including 14 of 15 by Michal Handzus.  Murray counted seven or eight times when they got kicked out of the faceoff circle and noted that top-line winger Justin Williams is unable to take faceoffs because of a tender shoulder.

Some of those lost possessions led to odd-man rushes by San Jose, which was able to get a third man into the rush.

"They're great at that," defenseman Jack Johnson said.  "They're a creative team. They do a lot of different plays where they gain the zone, they back their D off and the pull up and hit the trailer, and that's a hard play to defend. You're already backing off them the first wave of players and you're supposed to have one of our backcheckers (there)."

Murray, who again said his team "embarrassed" itself, said a lot of the Game 3 mistakes fall on his veterans.

Immediately after the game he allowed a few moments before he addressed the team and he overheard some of his players get angry with each other, which he took as a good sign.

"Guys were pissed off," Murray said. "They were saying the right things. That's the way a locker room should be. They're challenging each other to be better the next game."

Ryan Smyth, a veteran of 90 playoff games, was in a similar situation in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals when his Edmonton Oilers took a 3-0 lead on Carolina in the second period of Game 1 and lost 5-4.

He said this series doesn't really compare, but the mindset is the same.

"They were determined to come back," Smyth said of the Sharks. "We as a group got to be determined here in Game 4 to change back the series."
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