Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drama Kings they ain't

Chance of clinching in front of home fans no consolation prize

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NEW YORK -- Home-ice Stanley Cup-clinchers are nice for narrative drama and pretty pictures, which is why they are preferred by journalists and TV networks -- and also by fans who have tickets to such games.

But players are interested in one thing and one thing only at this time of year: winning the Cup, anywhere, any time.

So it was that when someone suggested to Kings captain Dustin Brown Wednesday night that the chance to win at home was a consolation prize for a 2-1 loss in Game 4 of the Cup Final, he scowled and paused before saying this:

"As players we don't... "

He paused again.

"Our objective was to close it out tonight," Brown said. "It's an opportunity lost. Now we reset, reload, get ourselves ready to go when we go home and have to play start to finish for 60 minutes."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter, as old-school a hockey man as they come, also was not buying the notion that the loss gave the Kings a chance to win in front of their "unbelievable" fans, as a questioner put it.

"Every opportunity is an opportunity to win a game or be eliminated or win a series," he said Thursday. "Doesn't make any more difference tomorrow than it did last night. That's a fact."

Let's try once more. How about you, Anze Kopitar? Excited about clinching at home?

"It doesn't mean a whole lot," he said. "We wanted to close it out tonight. We didn't do it, but now we're going home, and we're going to try to close it there."

Truth was many of the people the players care about most already were at the Garden Wednesday night after the Kings flew in family members for the potential celebration.

So the thought of 18,000 strangers cheering as Brown raises the Cup, while certainly nice, was not enough to leave the Kings anything but thoroughly frustrated by a game they dominated for the final 11/2 periods and failed to win.

All of it, including the two pucks that missed crossing the goal line by inches, will be forgotten if the Kings win at Staples Center tonight. But they know all about letting a fallen fighter off the canvas.

In 2012, they were up 3-0 against the Devils, then lost the next two games before recovering. In the first round this postseason, they themselves overcame a 3-0 series deficit to eliminate the Sharks.

"We had an OK effort, but it wasn't good enough," Drew Doughty said. "Now we know it gets even tougher. They have a little bit of momentum on their side and are going to be thinking better about themselves."

If the Rangers have momentum, it is only from the scoreboard. On the ice, the Kings played their best game of the series and yet lost for the first time.

That presumably bodes well for a victory in Game 5 that would give the home fans what they enjoyed two Junes ago. If it happens that way, it would be just fine with the Kings. But drama? No, thanks.

Brown summed up before Game 1 how pros feel about that sort of thing when he said, "As a kid, you always dream of Game 7 overtime. I remember when we won the Cup in 2012, I was really glad it was a 6-1 win in Game 6."

That series came up immediately after Game 4 as reporters reminded the Kings of what they endured two years ago, and every one of them acted as if that were the last thing he wanted to hear. Brown mumbled, "Different series."

There were some complaints after Games 1 and 2 about the ice at Staples Center, which appeared to cause pucks to bounce more than usual. But after Game 4, Doughty seemed to take a small shot at the Garden surface when he said of Staples Center, "That's where we're comfortable. We're on good ice and looking forward to it."

Hmm? Whatever might he have been referring to about the ice in New York? Snowdrifts in the crease, perhaps?

-- Newsday


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2014 C2

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