LOS ANGELES – Although Mike Richards has been in Los Angeles for less than a year, he has a pretty good idea what 45 years of simmering frustration will sound like when his Kings take the ice with the Stanley Cup nearly in reach.
“That’s probably one of the loudest rinks I’ve ever played in, and it’s going to be even louder tomorrow,” the center said Sunday, already anticipating the energy at Staples Center for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight.
A coronation just feels imminent for these Kings, who opened the series by adding two more victories in New Jersey to the longest run of road perfection in NHL playoff history – 10-0 this season and 12-0 dating to last season.
Now that the Kings are back home on the West Coast, the Stanley Cup has never been closer to going Hollywood.
Los Angeles is two wins from claiming the franchise’s first title and burying 4½ decades of monotonous ineptitude interrupted only by short stretches of brilliance by Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne and a few other stars who wore the club’s ever-changing uniforms – including another switch to that eye-catching “LA” logo before this season.
Hockey has always had a steadfast fan base out here among the movie stars and palm trees, but those fans are conditioned to accept small victories as fuel for their faith. These Kings have abruptly erased this club’s tedious reputation with a 14-2 playoff run that has few equals in NHL history.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team like this where everybody is locked in,” said Jeff Carter, whose persistence led to his overtime goal that won Game 2. “Everybody knows what they need to do to go out on the ice and get it done.”
The Kings are acutely aware their final job is only half done. Coach Darryl Sutter, the unlikely architect of this playoff push, spoke with his players on the cross-continental flight home from Newark about the importance of improving even now, about realizing their two-month effort isn’t over.NEW JERSEY VS. LOS ANGELES
■ WHEN: 5 p.m. today
■ WHERE: Staples Center, Los Angeles
■ TV: NBC (3)
■ LINE: Kings -160; total 4 1/2