Here are three thoughts on the game:
Effort isn't enough
The first period of Game 5 was one of the most exciting 20 minutes of hockey that I've seen in this series. Both teams maintained a high-speed and hard-hitting tempo that electrified the fans at the Prudential Center. Unfortunately, Los Angeles' effort went unrewarded.
The Kings may have played their hearts out, but they made too many mistakes with the puck. They often failed to maintain puck control in the neutral zone, which lead to multiple Devils' breaks. The Kings also struggled to find open shots at Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur and often settled for dumping the puck against the boards. Los Angeles didn't lose this game because of a lack of effort. The Kings lost because they weren't very sharp and lacked creativity.
There's no doubt in my mind that the Kings have more talent than the Devils. However, that doesn't matter if their stars aren't going to make an impact. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter both disappeared for long stretches of Game 5. New Jersey is simply too good for two of the Kings' best players to vanish like they have at times in the finals. Richards and Carter must step up if the team is going to finish this series on Monday night.
Game 6 or bust
It would be nearly impossible for Los Angeles to win Game 7 on the road after blowing a 3-0 series lead. There would be too many factors weighing against them to expect victory. That's why the Kings have to put the Devils away in Game 6. They can't afford to waste their last advantage in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals by losing their one remaining home game of the season.
Tune in to NBC this Monday, June 11 at 8:00 p.m. ET to see if the Kings can earn their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
Derek Ciapala has been a Kings fan since the late 1980s. His favorite Kings moment is when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games to qualify for the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals. You can follow him on Twitter @dciapala.
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