NEW YORK — The Los Angeles Kings picked a good time to be the team in this series to grab a 2-0 lead in a game and hold on to it. Their 3-0 win over the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night moved them within a victory of a second championship in three seasons. And while the players may not say they’re looking ahead, you have to believe the thought of a Garden party Wednesday night has crossed their mind.
“I think it’s fair to say anybody who is not thinking about that going into the next game is not being honest,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “At the same time, we’ve had the ability to not look too far ahead. We’ve also had the experience of being through this exact situation, being up 3-0, so we need to lean on each other and that experience and be focused and ready to go.”
The Kings are well-versed on both sides of the equation in the kind of hope that can be created in an opponent if you don’t win that fourth game when the opportunity arises. They mounted a historic comeback in the opening round against the San Jose Sharks. After falling behind 3-2 in their series with the Anaheim Ducks in Round 2, they won Games 6 and 7. In the Western Conference final, they built up a 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks and needed an overtime goal in Game 7 to advance. Rewind two years ago, they stormed out to a 3-0 series lead against New Jersey Devils in the Cup Final before needing six games to earn the title.
All that experience hasn’t been lost on the Kings. And while they know Wednesday night could end memorably, they’re focusing on ending it before any party planning begins.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “That’s very important. We were up 3-1 against Chicago and we let them back into the series. We could have lost that series no problem. We know how easy it is for teams to get back in a series. And we have to shut it out right away. We can’t let them get any energy from their crowd in their arena in the next game. We need to try and close it out as soon as possible.’’
The phrase “the fourth win is the toughest” will be the No. 1 cliche coming out of the LA dressing room over the next 48 hours. On Wednesday, LA gets its first crack to get that coveted 16th playoff win.
“It doesn’t matter when we do it, we just have to do it,” said Tyler Toffoli.
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