New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings players grapple near the goal in the third period during Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals, Saturday, June 9, 2012, in Newark, N.J.. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - The cellphones are going off and the blinds are going down. The Los Angeles Kings believe the best way to close out this Stanley Cup is to completely ignore the growing madness around them.
When they had a chance to make history and lift the trophy at Staples Center in Game 4, the requests for tickets and demands on their time went through the roof.
As a result, they may have been guilty of taking their eyes off the prize, something they've vowed not to do when they get a third shot at knocking off the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 on Monday.
"We don't want any distractions," said defenceman Drew Doughty. "I think a lot of us before Game 4 were distracted with family members and friends, the Cup coming in the building. A lot of things we have to put aside. Family always comes first for everyone, but at this point of the year the team has to come first.
"We're a family in the room and on the ice."
It was a refreshing piece of honesty from Doughty, who provided the best view behind the curtains as the Kings family convened at their practice facility Sunday for a meeting.
The Devils elected to practice after making the 3,900-kilometre trip across the continent and were thrilled they still had a reason to pull on their skates. They're well aware that few saw this series going beyond a fourth game, especially since the Kings took all kinds of momentum into the potential clincher when the teams last met at Staples Center.
"People expected this to be over two games ago," said New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer.
"When your bus has to pull by the 10 limos parked on the road ready for the after-party, that's definitely motivation," he added.
The mood has certainly shifted since Los Angeles won the opening three games of the Stanley Cup and appeared to be heading for a sweep. But in the big-picture analysis, there has been very little to separate the teams on the ice and veteran Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur had solid outings in Games 4 and 5—not to mention a little luck from his goal posts—to help get his squad back in the series.
It left DeBoer in a fairly jovial mood, as the Devils coach said Sunday that he wouldn't mind having adult film actress Taylor Stephens sitting in the first row again. She made a notable appearance behind the New Jersey bench in Game 4.
"We won last time she was there, so I'll buy her ticket if we do that again," said DeBoer.
For the second straight day, his Kings counterpart Darryl Sutter tried to paint his team as the underdogs.
"You know, New Jersey is playing pretty well, right?" said Sutter. "But let's not forget New Jersey is the home team. New Jersey is the team that had the hundred some points. You know what, we expected a long, hard series out of the New Jersey Devils and that's what we're getting."
Some significant history will be made no matter who raises the trophy.
Los Angeles is after its first title in 45 years while the Devils are seeking to become the first team since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs to erase a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup. Buckle up.
"It's exciting to stay alive every day," said Brodeur. "We play a game and say, 'All right, we dodged one.' Play another one. 'Whew. We dodged one.' I know that in three days at the most, we'll be on vacation.
"It's pretty special for the guys. We just want to keep it going."
This is the first time all playoffs the Kings have been part of a series that reached Game 6. The margin for error is getting slimmer and they're clearly looking to use the missed opportunities in this series for extra motivation.
"We realize a lot of us didn't play at our potential in Game 4," said Doughty. "We were nervous, worried about other things. All of us in the room were kind of frustrated that we were thinking about things ahead of time. Darryl made sure that wasn't going to happen this time."
Even still, they were only beaten 3-1 in Game 4 with an empty-net goal and 2-1 in Game 5. Virtually every game in this series could have gone either way.
Just as they've done throughout the playoffs, the Kings checked into a hotel near Staples Center on Sunday night. They intended to block out all distractions and focus on winning just one more game.
"It's going to be the third time that we have a chance to close it," said veteran forward Simon Gagne. "Every time you learn from those things. Personally, I knew a little bit what to expect, but for the guys that's their first time in the final it's a lot. It's a lot of things to take care of. ...
"I think we'll definitely (be) more prepared tomorrow night with the stuff outside of the game."
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