The Los Angeles Kings realize it’s hard enough to get pucks past Marc-Andre Fleury when he is under constant pressure and duress.
It’s nearly impossible when he’s allowed to get comfortable in the crease.
The Kings know they must change that after falling behind these Western Conference quarterfinals with a 1-0 loss in the opener at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday night.
“We’ve got to make it a lot tougher on Fleury than we did last night,” coach John Stevens said after Thursday’s practice at T-Mobile Arena. “We’ve got to spend more time in the offensive zone and get more traffic in front of him and fight for position in front, then get more pucks on net to make his job more difficult.”
The mantra was clearly instilled in his players after Fleury stopped all 30 shots he saw in Game 1.
Fleury had several outstanding saves, but the Kings believe those could have been made more difficult had he been dealing with more obstructed views.
On one occasion, he was able to bounce the puck on his stick twice before corralling it in a move reminiscent of the Nike commercial where Tiger Woods juggled the golf ball with his iron before crushing it down the fairway.
Marc-André Fleury proving he can juggle the puck too pic.twitter.com/lwTmKiAPci
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 12, 2018
“We’ve got to get pucks to the net and get bodies in there,” forward Tanner Pearson said. “When you have bodies, it can take a deflection and go or you can just be there for the rebound. Good things can just happen. Little things like that will make a big difference.”
They also have to take advantage when opportunities present themselves.
Dustin Brown pounced on a rebound and missed a wide open net from point blank range in the second period. He believes the conversions will come if they keep working hard to generate them.
“We have to get through the forecheck and we definitely need to make it a lot harder on Fleury,” he said. “I think they played well in front of him and boxed out pretty well, but this time of year it’s a matter of will to get to the net. We got there a few times. It just needs to be more consistent.”
Los Angeles isn’t about to panic.
But they’ll be without defensman Drew Doughty, who Thursday afternoon was suspended for Game 2 by the NHL for an illegal check on William Carrier midway through the third period. The Kings’ defense already was depleted with Jake Muzzin and Derek Forbort missing Game 1 and their status uncertain for Friday.
The Kings have faced larger series deficits during previous playoff runs and know the opportunity is there to steal home-ice advantage with a win.
“We lost 1-0 to one of the best home teams in the league with the energy they had here,” Brown said. “I thought we did a good job stifling their offensive opportunities, especially early in the game. We just need to get more time in their zone and make it tougher on the goalie, but it’s just one game. If we win tomorrow, it’s 1-1 and we have home ice advantage.
“That’s the focus.”
That and getting Fleury to lose his.