If the Kings had held a third-period lead in either Game 4 or Game 6, they would be nearing the end of the third period of Game 7 against Vancouver right about now. Instead the Kings, who were 29-0-2 in the regular season when leading going into the third period, lost both games and the series. Nearly everyone involved, rightfully, has pointed to that Game 4 home loss as the turning point of the series, and today, Terry Murray, Anze Kopitar, Michal Handzus, Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty and Brad Richardson talked about those missed opportunities, how much they hurt and what they feel the Kings can learn from them going forward.
MURRAY: “You can look at it [Game 4] both ways, from the offensive side and the other way, the defensive side. We had two great scoring opportunities, a breakaway and a 2-on-1, that could have maybe put the game away. It was 3-2 and it could have been 4-2, 5-2 pretty easily, I thought. On the other part of it, it’s a one-goal lead and you have to be able to shut that game down if that’s the way it is. We missed the opportunity on both sides of the puck. That was a hard one. That was the turning point, I felt, in the series. We still came back with a solid Game 6. There was a great opportunity to win that one, but boy, that shifted a lot of momentum.”
KOPITAR: “That’s part of the learning curve. It’s one of those things where, last year we blew a bunch of leads going into the third. This year, we improved a lot. We won a lot of one-goal games, even coming from behind. The next step is just to close out games and have that killer instinct. When you go into the third period with the lead, it doesn’t matter if it’s a one-goal lead or two goals, whatever. Just keep playing the game the way we did that brought us there, and just finish those off.”
HANDZUS: “it’s the little things. You don’t see it as much on TV, but little things like winning the battles and being strong on the puck. There’s a lot of little things in the game that maybe you don’t see but they’re very important. it’s why you win or lose a series, and I think it’s those little things that you have to do on a consistent basis. We did it in a couple games, but we didn’t do it in other games, and if you want to win a series, you have to do it every game. Even if you do it in every game, you don’t win every game, but you’ve got a better chance. That’s the important thing, those little things that are very important. We have to learn to do it every shift. I think that’s the experience we can take from this year.”
JOHNSON: “Those are games that you have to win. You can’t blow third-period leads. I don’t think there’s any secret lesson that needs to be learned or anything. It’s just the playoffs, and when you have a chance to put a team down 3-1 and you have a lead, you’ve got to hang onto it, you’ve got to build on it. I don’t think there’s any hidden lesson. I think it’s obvious.”
DOUGHTY: “We had those chances to take the series. We had those third-period leads going in, and we did so well at it the whole year. It’s unfortunate that we had the two times that we did mess up, and they were in the playoffs.”
RICHARDSON: “When you look back at the series, those are probably what cost us the series, was giving up those leads. We definitely, easily, could have won that series. It was right there. We had a great season, and we led the leads like that, going into the third, and for some reason we didn’t have that in the playoffs. We still had a good series. We pushed them hard. They’re a great team, but looking back at it, that’s what cost us the series.”