If you believe it happens Anze Kopitarthe Kings are exactly where they want to be after seven months and 88 games: at least 60 more minutes of hockey Saturday that could decide the fate of their season.
“If you told us we have to win a game to advance, we would definitely take the opportunity,” said Kopitar, looking at his team’s game 7. first Stanley Cup playoff series with the Edmonton Oilers. “You have to get ready for a match. That’s all there is to it. “
However, Kopitar may not take the path that has led his team to this point. With a chance to finish the series at home on Thursday, the Kings found the Oilers a two-goal lead, recovered to equalize the game in the third period, then gave up two goals in the final five minutes and 10 seconds. lose 4-2 at the Crypto.com Arena.
This forced the team on another three-hour flight to Edmonton on Friday for a decisive seventh game. But coach Todd McLellan was also embracing the circumstances.
“We like this situation,” he said. “If someone said ‘Hey, the LA Kings against the Edmonton Oilers, are you going to play for a game?’ We’re not particularly happy with how we got there, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.
“So let’s look ahead. We have won there before. We can still win there “.
In fact, two of the Kings’ three wins in the series have come to Edmonton. And during the regular season, the team fared better away than at home.
“We’ve been comfortable on the road all year,” McLellan said. “We’re fine. We’ve been playing in some really tough buildings against some really good teams. So it’s not like I have to go in [locker] room and sprinkle them with pixie dust to make them play.
“They played away and now they feel safe.”
There is another factor that works in favor of the Kings. It’s been 20 years since they lost their seventh game in a post-season streak. They have since won four of those games, the last three away in 2014. But Kopitar is one of only three uniformed kings who were part of that team.
“It’s been a while since we’ve done this,” said Kopitar. “So we’ll focus again tomorrow. We will do whatever it takes to be fresh and go up and try to win a match. “
The Kings have been high and low throughout this series, giving up 14 goals in consecutive games, only to close the Oilers in the next. Thursday was a bit of both.
They were negligent at first, giving up a goal to Connor McDavid in the first two minutes of the first period and another to the king’s nemesis Evander Kane in the first two minutes of the second period.
But then they pulled back, recovering to equalize the game on Sean Durzi’s power-play goal in the second period – only the third the Kings have scored on 24 occasions – and Carl Grundstrom’s goal with 29 seconds left.
The Kings failed to finish him, though, with a mistake that resulted in Tyson Barrie’s go-ahead goal on a slap from the top of the right faceoff circle with 4:50 left. Kane represented the final goal, his seventh of the series, with an empty net in the last minute.
But instead of mourning the loss, McLellan quickly moved on. His young team had come so close to winning the series, only to have to get on a plane and wait two days to try again. This was an experience they could draw on, he said.
“We did a dress rehearsal,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to need to go there and give them any kind of win-one-for-the-Gipper talk. There is enough leadership in there and there are a lot of proud guys in that room.
“We’re going to go to a hockey game. We believe that at the end of the evening we will be able to win. “