LOS ANGELES -- As it turns out, it appears the only way to beat the Los Angeles Kings is to spot them a 3-0 series lead.
All kidding aside, it's certainly uncanny how the Kings have let their guard down in these playoffs only when they are on the verge of a sweep. Human nature, perhaps.
Credit the New Jersey Devils for a solid effort in a 3-1 win Wednesday night, but the reality is that just like in Game 4 against Phoenix in the Western Conference finals, the Kings took their eye off the ball with a chance at a sweep.
"It's always tough to close out that fourth [game]," said star Kings blue-liner Drew Doughty, who tied the game 1-1 8:56 into the third period. "The other team is playing so desperate, and I thought tonight they played a pretty good game. But at the same time, we didn't have a good game. We didn't do the things that we've been doing throughout the playoffs. Now we're going back to New Jersey. We've got to get some rest and get right back to work."
The Kings also lost Game 4 at home to Vancouver in the opening round with a chance to sweep. What gives?
"That's because we've been up 3-0 in every series, so I think the other teams dig down and they don't want to get swept," Kings winger Dustin Penner said. "New Jersey played a great game today. They were opportunistic. That's the way playoffs go. You're not going to win 16 games out of 18."
Sixteen out of 19 will do just as well, no doubt, for the Kings. But they'll need to raise their game back to where they were Monday night in a dominating 4-0 victory over the Devils.
There are a few things to fix.
"A lot of things," Doughty said. "We weren't good, I didn't think, at breaking out. We weren't making tape-to-tape passes. When we were getting into the zone, a lot of time they were breaking it right out and we weren't establishing a good forecheck. So, there's a lot of things we have to improve on. But I think, for the most part, we just need to get back to work and play the system properly."
It's a downer, to be sure, in these parts on this night. Kings fans were buzzing all day around the Staples Center, hoping to see their team win its first Stanley Cup since entering the league 45 years ago.
With the Stanley Cup in the building Wednesday night, and an inescapable buzz around the rink with celebrities on hand, the atmosphere was hard to ignore, no matter how the Kings focused.
Truth be told, I think that got them off their game to a certain degree.
"I don't know, I'm not a doctor, maybe at a subconscious level," responded Penner when asked if the Kings were somewhat distracted. "We definitely wanted to win this one for everyone else and ourselves. But you can't do much more than we did tonight. We could have easily won that game."
Veteran blue-liner Rob Scuderi, who won a Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, said one couldn't totally deny the buzz around them Wednesday night.
"It's part of it, but the Cup is going to be in the building for whenever we play the rest of this series," Scuderi said. "So I don't think we can let it get to us. Maybe there was a bit more buzz because we were here at home. But ultimately, if we don't finish the job, we don't deserve it."
Doughty said his team can't afford to allow that as a factor.
"It shouldn't be," Doughty said. "Maybe for people outside of the team, but for all of us in the room, we had to be focused before this game, we can't be thinking about what is to come after the game. It's what is happening at that moment. I think, for the most part, the guys were focused and ready to go tonight but we just didn't come up with our best effort."
On the flip side, it's Road Sweet Road for the Kings on Saturday in Newark, as the club is a perfect 10-0 away from Staples Center in these playoffs.
And if they do win in New Jersey, it would be the fifth year in a row the Cup is awarded to the visiting team. The Kings could certainly live with that.