EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Kings are facing their fifth playoff elimination game of the spring.
Given the way Los Angeles handled this situation four times in the previous round, the Anaheim Ducks are understandably wary.
“I love those opportunities,” Kings defenceman Drew Doughty said Tuesday. “I love the pressure. I know going into those games I’m going to be counted upon. Because we’re comfortable in that situation, we know exactly how desperate we have to play.”
After three consecutive wins in the first Freeway Faceoff post-season series, the Ducks are one victory away from their first trip to the Western Conference finals since their only Stanley Cup season in 2007.
But the Ducks realize the Kings have a Stanley Cup pedigree and an uncommon post-season resilience.
After winning four consecutive games to escape an 0-3 hole in the first round against San Jose, they only need to win Game 6 at Staples Center — where the Ducks won twice earlier in the series — to force a seventh game back in Anaheim.
“They’ve got so much pride and championship blood that it’s just going to take a perfect game,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said.
“I would still venture to guess that people are still thinking that they’re the favourites to win the series because of what they’ve done in the past.”
The Kings never even faced an elimination game during their 16-4 rampage to their only Stanley Cup title in 2012.
In the two seasons since, they’ve twice rallied out of 0-2 deficits in the first round and won five potential elimination games overall, losing only to Chicago in last summer’s conference finals.
The Kings seem unshakably confident they can snap a three-game skid with a complete defensive effort in front of Jonathan Quick, who has been bested by Anaheim rookie goalie John Gibson in two straight outings.
Gibson has stopped 67 of 70 shots while winning his first two NHL playoff games, and he still hasn’t lost in the big leagues after going 3-0 late in the Ducks’ regular season.
“We know we can beat him,” Doughty said.
“We know he’s a very good goalie. At the same time, we haven’t done everything we can. As good as he is, he’s not impossible to beat. I’d take Quickie over him any day still.”
Before they took a bus up the I-5 freeway to spend another night in downtown Los Angeles, the Ducks prepared for a defining moment of their season with both excitement and trepidation.
The Ducks clinched their last playoff series on the road in Game 6, but the experience didn’t exactly fill them with confidence.
Anaheim started poorly at Dallas and fell behind by two goals, only to finish off the Stars with two late regulation goals and an overtime winner.
“In the first round, we’re very conscious of what happened for them and for us,” Ducks defenceman Ben Lovejoy said. “(Game 6 in Dallas) was a miraculous comeback. We probably didn’t deserve to win that game. … We’re all desperate. We all want to get there.”
The Ducks also will draw from last season’s playoff run, when they took a 3-2 series lead on Detroit and failed in two chances to close it out, losing Game 6 on the road.
“All the great teams, they have to go through some tough times together,” Teemu Selanne said.
“Last year was so disappointing. We really want to remember that, now that we’ve got ourselves in a pretty good position.”
The Kings already excavated themselves from one bad position in this post-season with a six-game winning streak that ended in Game 3.
Los Angeles has been dominant and dismal in alternating stretches for much of this season, but always seemed to recover its mojo when it really mattered.
To even the series, the Kings likely must generate offence from somebody besides Marian Gaborik, whose NHL-best eight playoff goals are double the total of any teammate.
Los Angeles has 11 goals in five games in the series, including just five in its three straight losses.