LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings already know there’s no place like home ice for a coronation.
They’ve got the chance to lift the Stanley Cup at Staples Center again when they host the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the finals today, giving the ultimate celebration to their long-suffering fans for the second time in three years.
Yet the Kings’ memories of that night in June, 2012, weren’t a popular subject Thursday as they prepared for the chance to finish another draining, two-month postseason with one big party.
“It doesn’t matter where you win the fourth [game],” Jarret Stoll said at the Kings’ training complex. “This time of year, it’s all about the result.”
With the weary poise of a team that has already been through three seven-game series this spring, the Kings insisted they’re not bothered by their inability to finish a sweep in New York. Mike Richards and the Kings calmly flew home, grabbed a few hours of sleep, and focused on a good start to Game 5, figuring it will lead to the big finish.
“It’s not going to be easy, but confidence is there,” Richards said. “If we play well, we think that we can have success. You don’t make it to this point of the season without having confidence in your team.”
Stoll is tired of the Kings’ weak starts, however. The Rangers have taken 2-0 leads in three of the series’ four games, forcing Los Angeles to play catch-up hockey — something the Kings do extraordinarily well, but would prefer to skip today.
“We know we can do more, especially at the start of games,” Stoll said.
Henrik Lundqvist gave the Rangers hope with his 40-save performance in Game 4, earning another cross-country trip for the Eastern Conference champions. The goalie’s unflappable poise — and one or two puck-slowing mounds of snow — helped keep the Rangers in the series with a 2-1 win in Game 4.
And now that they’re off the canvas, the Rangers realize they have ample reason to be comfortable at Staples Center, where they never trailed in their two series-opening overtime losses. The Rangers still mixed it up in their return to the visitors’ dressing room for practice Thursday: Except for their two goalies, every player took a new locker.
“I know if we win [Game 5], they’re definitely going to feel the pressure,” Lundqvist said. “We were in that spot playing Montreal. The closer you are to your final goal, obviously you tend to think more. That’s just the way you work. It’s hard not to.”
Lundqvist is the Rangers’ best hope, and the Swedish star is at his best with the season on the line. He is 11-2 in the Rangers’ last 13 elimination games with a 1.30 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage.
“It comes down to how much you want to battle, how much you want it,” Lundqvist said.