The Kings are not the Stanley Cup champions ... yet

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The Kings are not the Stanley Cup champions ... yet

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After 45 years of waiting, the Los Angeles Kings' quest for their first Stanley Cup title will last at least a few more days. The Kings had a chance to sweep New Jersey out of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night, but they were done in by three third-period goals in a 3-1 loss to the Devils in Game 4. While the Kings are an amazing 15-3 in this remarkable postseason run, they have lost three Game 4s with a chance for a sweep. No worries, though, as Los Angeles bounced back in Game 5 to knock out Vancouver and Phoenix on the road. The Kings managed to sweep St. Louis in the second round. The Devils claimed their first lead of the series in the third period before Kings defenseman Drew Doughty tied it. Adam Henrique put New Jersey ahead to stay with 4:29 left, and Ilya Kovalchuk secured the Eastern Conference champions' first win of the series with an empty-net goal. Now it's back to New Jersey for Game 5 on Saturday night. "It was pretty even all the way, but they found a way to get a late goal," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "We had some chances early in the third, but we didn't bury it, and we made a couple of mistakes that they capitalized on. We've just got to hit the reset button. "We've been in this situation now three times in the playoffs, and we've always come back with a big rebound game." The Kings might have to get some rebounds past 40-year-old Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who has been in top form all series, and stopped 21 shots in Game 4. The NHL's career winningest goalie doesn't appear to be satisfied with the three Stanley Cup titles he already has. "Marty played well for them and made some big saves," Brown said. "Tonight was a battle out there, and now it's just a matter of having the same approach in the next game." The Kings were trying to become the first team to sweep the Devils in a best-of-seven series, and the first to sweep the finals since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. New Jersey had managed a total of only two goals in the first three games -- dropping a pair of 2-1 overtime decisions at home before losing 4-0 in Los Angeles in Game 3. Los Angeles has won a record 10 straight road games in these playoffs, and 12 consecutive postseason games away from home, dating to last year. If the Kings win one more in New Jersey, they will also own the mark for most road wins in a playoff year with 11. "Whether you win or lose, we don't have time to get down or too excited. We just have to focus on the next one," goalie Jonathan Quick said. "We've played well on the road, but at the same time, we try to play the same way whether you're on the road or at home. We're just focused on the next one, and that's all it is. This one is in the past." Quick faced 72 shots in the first three games, and the only two that got past him were a bounce off the chest of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, and Ryan Carter's deflection of Marek Zidlicky's shot. On Wednesday, he was beaten by Henrique's perfectly placed wrist shot. "They were desperate in all of the games," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "Everybody is bringing their A' game in the finals, and we're going to have to do it again. We have to bury the chances we get. "They seem like they had chances off the rush, and they capitalized on those. They played with a little more desperation than we did, and we have to correct that in Game 5." Teams that had a chance to win the Cup on home ice are 6-8 since 2000. The last four champions closed the deal on the road. The Kings could be primed to repeat that feat. "We didn't have our best game, and they did," defenseman Matt Greene said. "They played well. We knew they were going to come out hard, and they did. We have to be tighter in the defensive zone and tighter in our game if we want to win. "I think we played OK, but that's not going to cut it right now. We've got to do a better job of moving the puck faster out of our zone, getting more sustained pressure in theirs and disrupting their game." The Kings can take comfort in the fact that teams who led 3-0 in the Stanley Cup finals have won the series 24 of 25 times since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format in 1939. The only exception is the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, who blew the big lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs. None of the Kings appeared worried Wednesday that the Stanley Cup was slipping out of their grasp. The games have been tight, and Los Angeles has effectively shut down the Devils' power play, which is 0 for 15 in the series. "I don't think we were expecting to win in four before the finals started," Kings forward Simon Gagne said. "We're in a great position, but it's going to be a big fight. We all know that fourth one is going to be the toughest one to win. "Sure, you're disappointed. You hope you could do it in front of your fans. But at the same time, it's the Stanley Cup finals, and it's going to take a lot of work to get it done. They played well, and we came up short. That's the bottom line. Now we have to focus on the next game. That's it."

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Justin Williams calls the Caps' loss 'a reality check'

Justin Williams calls the Caps' loss 'a reality check'

PITTSBURGH—Justin Williams has seen a lot during his 16-year NHL career. But he's not sure he's ever been part of something as wild as Monday’s 8-7 loss to the Penguins.

“It snowballed too quickly for us,” Williams said at PPG Paints Arena. “All around, it was like a 1988 Smythe Division game out there, I think. Not something you want to do.”

Williams scored his 15th goal early in the second period to put the Caps ahead 3-0.

Then things got away from the visitors—quickly.

RELATED: Caps' win streak snapped in crazy loss to Penguins

The final regular season meeting between these bitter rivals sure

About five minutes later, Evgeni Malkin scored the first of his three goals while the teams skated four aside. Braden Holtby said the goal was one he should stop “all the time.” Coach Barry Trotz said it allowed Malkin and Co. to “seize” the game’s momentum.

Either way, Williams didn’t like the Caps’ initial response.

“You certainly know it’s not going to be easy,” Williams said. “We’re up 3-0. Things are going well. Things have gone well lately. But they’re not going to back away. They’re not going to say, ‘Alright, maybe next game.’ They’re going to come at you, and they did.”

The Penguins took 10 of the game’s next 12 shots. Four of them resulted in goals. The capacity crowd, which had been quiet for the first 25 minutes, suddenly came alive.  

Were some bad bounces involved? Sure. Nick Bonino found the puck on the doorstep after it hit him. Bryan Rust’s goal went in off of Ovechkin’s skate.

None of that helped, of course. But Williams still felt like the Caps, who came in riding a nine-game winning streak, could have and should have done more to keep the second period—and ultimately the game—from slipping away.

“Tonight was a good reality check just to say, ‘You know what? You’re not that good,” he said. “You still got to work for things. It’s not going to come easy for you.”

Williams added: “It was a good challenge for us. We came back multiple times. I’m proud of us for that. But, again, crappy game.”

Asked if there was anything positive that the Caps could take from the game, Williams bristled at the suggestion.

“Nothing,” he said. “I want to park it right now. I don’t want to watch it. I don’t want to see it. Obviously, if I have to I will. But just go back to working hard and go back to the drawing board and just hit the reset.”

MORE CAPITALS: NHL explains why the Malkin goal was not overturned

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Caps' win streak snapped in crazy, controversial 8-7 overtime loss to Penguins

Caps' win streak snapped in crazy, controversial 8-7 overtime loss to Penguins

PITTSBURGH—The final regular season meeting between these bitter rivals sure was a memorable one. 

After the Caps and Penguins combined for 14 goals in regulation, Conor Sheary scored the game winner in overtime, lifting Pittsburgh to a wild 8-7 victory at PPG Paints Arena. 

How it happened: The Caps took a quick 3-0 lead on goals Andre Burakovsky, Nicklas Backstrom and Justin Williams, whose goal at 1:17 of the second period meant the visitors had outscored their opponents 15-0 dating to the previous Penguins game on Jan. 11.

It wasn't nearly enough. Because during a wild 11 minute span in the second, the prolific Penguins  scored six of the game’s next eight goals—yes, six of eight, including an Evgeni Malkin hat trick. As a result, the Pens took a 6-5 lead into the final frame. 

The third period was almost as crazy. Sidney Crosby stretched Pittsburgh’s lead to 7-5 early. But the Caps fought back with goals from T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller, whose second tally of the night with 5:22 left to play sent the game to overtime.

Sheary didn’t need much time to decide it. The Pens’ winger dived headfirst into a pileup in the Caps’ crease and somehow managed to get enough of his stick on the puck to push it underneath Philipp Grubauer and off of Matt Niskanen’s skate. After a brief review, officials determined there was no goaltender interference. 

RELATED: Oshie's backhanded goal gets Caps within one

What it means: The Caps’ winning streak came to an end at nine games. But they kept their spot atop the NHL because both Columbus and Minnesota were off. 

Holtby’s night cut short: The reigning Vezina Trophy winner entered as one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, having recorded three shutouts in his previous five starts. Monday, however, was not his night. Trotz made a goalie switch after Holtby allowed a fifth goal on 15 second period shots, including goals by Bryan Rust and Malkin on back-to-back shots. Holtby yielded five goals on 26 shots.

Defense optional: The Caps came in allowing a league-low 1.91 goals against. So, yeah. 

Unsuccessful challenge: After winning a coach’s challenge against the Blackhawks, Trotz tried again to have a goal overturned on grounds of goaltender interference. This time, however, it didn’t work. Officials ruled that Patric Hornqvist did not prevent Grubauer from doing his job on Malkin’s third goal late in the second period.  

Holy O: The Caps have now scored five or more goals in four straight games and seven of the last 10. The seven goals against on Monday came from six different Caps (Burakovsky, Backstrom, Williams, Brett Connolly, Eller and Oshie). 

Getting physical: Alex Ovechkin didn’t score a goal but he dished out a game-high nine hits. The Caps’ captain also notched a pair of assists.

Looking ahead: The Caps will not practice on Tuesday. They’ll return to the ice Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Arlington before departing on the annual Dad’s Trip, which will make stops in St. Louis and Dallas.

MORE CAPITALS: Eller pulls the Caps even at 5