The Los Angeles Kings have yet to let a playoff game get too far out of reach, never falling behind by more than two goals.
Out of 14 outings in the first three rounds of their 2012 run, their lone two losses have also been the lone two times they have trailed by two goals.
Other than that, the Kings have fallen behind on six other occasions and successfully elicited a response. Five times, they retorted within less than 10 minutes.
That resilience emerged in the first period of the first round and was on its grandest display last week in the game that saw L.A. clinch its passport to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, Alexandre Burrows spawned a 1-0 lead for the top seed and reigning Campbell Bowl winners at 4:17. But after killing a pair of penalties, the Kings pounced on their first power play and cultivated an equalizer from Mike Richards at the 13:31 mark.
They never trailed for the remainder of the night, eventually winning the game, 4-2, and the series, 4-1.
After Vancouver averted elimination and brought the series back home, Henrik Sedin offered hope to the home crowd with an icebreaker at 14:04 of the first period in Game 5. The Kings’ comeback stalled a little, but goaltender Jonathan Quick shook off his error and held off the Canucks until Brad Richardson finally put the visitors on board.
Jarret Stoll won the series in the resultant overtime. And since then, with the exception of a 2-0 loss in Game 4 of the conference finals, the Kings have not so much as waited until an intermission to recompense a deficit.
David Backes gave the St. Louis Blues the first lead of the second round with 9:16 gone in the opening frame. It would turn out to be St. Louis’ only lead against the Kings and it only lived for seven minutes and 42 seconds before Slava Voynov converted a setup by Dustin Penner.
Sweeping the Blues and claiming the first two games of the third round on the road versus the Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles fell behind early in Game 3. But after Daymond Langkow raised the upper hand for Phoenix at the 63-second mark of the second period, only 2:07 melted off the clock before Anze Kopitar drew a 1-1 knot.
That tie held up until early in the closing stanza, when Dwight King finalized a 2-1 win to five the Kings their third 3-0 advantage in as many series.
To date, the only “major” blemish on L.A.’s playoff transcript was Game 4, though the result was really owed to the Coyotes’ desperation, perfectly personified by goaltender Mike Smith and captain Shane Doan.
Back in Glendale for the ensuing fifth game, the Coyotes brought the same desperation and let it translate to 1-0 and 2-1 leads. But the Kings matched that urgency, getting their two equalizers from Kopitar and Drew Doughty within 6:53 and 4:43 of Phoenix’s first two goals, respectively.
Richards nudged the Kings ahead, 3-2, a mere 2:37 after Doughty struck. Keith Yandle was apt to respond with Phoenix’s third equalizer of the series, the others occurring in Game 2, before the second intermission.
But other than the fourth game of the Vancouver series, Quick has yet to let his team blow a lead altogether. And he repelled each of the Coyotes 16 third-period shots and six overtime stabs before Smith blinked at the other end, giving up the series-clincher to Penner.
For Quick―the NHL’s playoff leader with a 1.54 goals-against average and .946 save percentage―and for the Kings’ timely, responsive strike force, facing the New Jersey Devils in the finals will post a challenge to both of their boons.
The Devils just polished off their Eastern Conference crown by repeatedly roaring to a multi-goal lead in the first period en route to three straight victories over the New York Rangers. And goaltender Martin Brodeur, whose resume is overwhelmingly dense with trips to the finals, has likewise been adamant about keeping opponents from coming back since the second round.
That said, to sustain their chances of winning four of the next seven games, the Kings need not bring anything less than more of the same from the last six weeks.