Were they grasping at straws or coaxing small embers into becoming flames when the
Better, in this case, is a relative term. And despite a more intense and effective effort by the top players who must carry the load, the Kings still lost, 4-3, in overtime. Now, they must defeat the
"It's a good opportunity for us to show — everybody's kind of writing us off right now — a good opportunity to show how resilient we are right now as a group," forward
"We've done good things in the past and this is just another thing we have to be excited to accomplish."
No small thing, though. Only three
"If you're still playing hockey, you still have a chance," said Richards, who played on that upstart Flyers team alongside current Kings teammate
"You just can't look at the mountain and expect to do it all at once. It's a process to just put games together, put shifts together. And it starts with Thursday night. You can't win four unless you win one."
Richards and Carter were among the big guns who gave the Kings a glimmer of hope after Game 3.
Richards, coming off a dreadful season in which he was dropped to the fourth line, didn't score Tuesday but mustered his most assertive performance. He was credited with a team-leading five shots on goal, including several prime scoring chances, and he won half of his 18 faceoffs while centering an assortment of wingers and killing penalties.
"Myself, as well as the team, just played my game," Richards said. "Tenacious on the puck. Moving feet. Get involved physically. And it's about getting better throughout the season. I've still got to play better and contribute offensively and try to help the team win."
On the negative side, he was on the ice for Tomas Hertl's tying goal at 9:17 of the third period, and for
"I think Mike and Gabby, for sure, stepped their games up in terms of the compete and the determination," Coach
Richards' Game 3 performance must be the start of something bigger and better for him and for the Kings. If his regular-season numbers suggest he's unlikely to become a productive contributor, he contended the past doesn't matter when the team's immediate future has dwindled to one game.
"All the numbers during the season are out the window. All the numbers in the playoffs you can even throw out the window too," he said. "It's about helping the team have success no matter how it is. Every player in the dressing room has to look at it like that too. You can't worry about what happened in Game 2, what happened in Game 3 and in Game 1. It's all about Game 4 right now.
"Everyone should be excited with what we can do if we really put our minds to it and play well and stay mentally strong."
Ember or flame? We'll know Thursday.