Getty ImagesNEWARK -- The Los Angeles Kings have been in this situation before. They know that hope has taken residence in the other locker room. They know that the New Jersey Devils look at Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night as one that could swing momentum in the series majorly. They know what they need to do because they've done it twice already.
Hope moved into the Vancouver Canucks' locker room after their Game 4 win in the first round. Jonathan Quick and Jarret Stoll evicted her after a 26-save performance by the goaltender and a series-ending overtime goal by the 29-year-old forward.
In Game 4 of the Western Conference final, the Phoenix Coyotes became the first team to shut out the Kings since late March. Two nights later, Quick allowed three goals for only the second time in the playoffs, but it was Dustin Penner's turn to end a series in overtime.
Game 5 is another chance for Los Angeles to bounce back from a loss and close out a series. This, as we know, isn't just any series. There's a pretty big prize on the line, one that's much closer to the Kings' hands than the Devils. But after failing to close out the series on Wednesday night, Los Angeles has recovered from the emotional letdown.
"You have that first opportunity to move on to the next round and relax, you're pretty excited about it," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "I wouldn't say we're any less excited, but maybe a little more even-keeled about it."
The Kings know what they did wrong in Game 4 and, like they've done previously, will target improvements on Saturday night. One thing we do know is that Los Angeles will not stray from what got them here. The in-and-out daily routine along with the extended breaks in-between games has been stressed over and over by the coaching staff.
"You know what, we haven't changed," said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. "I haven't seen a big change in our team emotionally for almost two months now. I think we've been able to handle different situations. I think they've learned, because of the breaks we had before Series 2 and before Series 3, the breaks they had, they had to learn to get their space, get back to being focused and reloaded."
New Jersey has gotten better and stronger as series have gone on through the first three rounds. They're 9-1 between Games 4-7, including Wednesday night. The Kings know this, and they know they're going to get the best efforts of the Devils going forward, whether it's for one more game or three. And winning one more game will be a daunting task knowing New Jersey is fighting for their playoff lives.
"We know what our expectations are," said Anze Kopitar. We're sitting in a good position right now. A loss is a loss and you have to put it past you and look ahead and get ready for tomorrow."
Games 1 and 2 could have gone either way with a bounce in a different direction; same for Game 4. Los Angeles knows this could be a different series, but those breaks are part of the game and it's forced both sides to realize that every shift has and will count.
"I know our guys understand it very well," said Sutter. "They know it's just the little things that you have to try to accomplish during your shift that might be the difference in a game. I think our players have been right on top of it. "
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy