The Kings are the only team in the Western Conference to be mired in a 3-0 playoff hole, which is why there was more talk Wednesday about 2010 than their 2012 Stanley Cup championship resume.
There is something special about rallying from an 3-0 series deficit, so extraordinary that it has happened only three times in NHL history. Current Kings Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are members of that select club, having accomplished the feat when they were with the Philadelphia Flyers, who pulled off the trick against the Boston Bruins in 2010.
"We have to be desperate," Carter said. "We're down, 3-0. There's no time to sit back and wait for things to happen. You have to out there and make them happen. If we don't, it's going to be a long summer. We need everybody on the same page tomorrow night."
That would be Thursday at Staples Center for Game 4. If the Kings extend the series, Game 5 is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at San Jose. The Sharks were almost businesslike in their approach after their Game 3 victory behind Patrick Marleau's overtime goal. In other words, they weren't getting overly giddy about it, high drama and all.
"We got back to the type of series that we thought we would have coming in," Sharks Coach Todd McLellan said. "In fact, there was still more scoring than we thought. We didn't think there would be seven goals scored, but it will be that type of game. We will have to play a better game tomorrow than we did yesterday."
The Kings were dramatically better in Game 3, though the bar wasn't set overly high after their woes and shortcomings in the first two games in San Jose. Marian Gaborik materialized in spectacular fashion — his unassisted goal was dazzling in the second period — and the Kings continued to chip away at San Jose goalie Antti Niemi.
"I think it was the first time that we got to him," Gaborik said. "The first couple of games, we scored goals, but they were ugly goals, which we need. But it was the first time we really got to him in terms of having quality scoring chances and being on him. We just have to have that more and try to find the net."
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter is often calmest in the face of severe adversity. Well, at least more expansive. Of course, he wasn't about to divulge any message he was sending to his players or specifics about the various hidden bumps and bruises. The next coach to do that during the playoffs will be the first.
Rest assured, the damage is not on par with the injuries the Kings were dealing with in the Chicago playoff series last season.
"No, no, no. I don't really want to compare that," Sutter said. "Pain is part of it. There's a difference between injured and hurt. Obviously, you're talking about Drew [Doughty]. Drew's a tough guy. He's a tough guy. He's going to go out and play. That's the way it works."
Doughty played on a bad ankle in the playoffs last year against the Sharks and the Blackhawks. His ice time in Game 3 was 28-plus minutes despite missing a few shifts in the first period for an unspecified issue after it appeared he was in discomfort.
He said Tuesday morning that he wasn't happy playing only 23 minutes in Game 2 and went on to record two assists in Game 3. Sutter liked that attitude and talked about the combination of Doughty's innate hockey sense and competitiveness.
"He's got to do for us what [Marc-Edouard] Vlasic does for them [the Sharks]," Sutter said of Doughty's defense partner at the Olympics for Team Canada.
"That's kind of how you match it up. He wants to play and that's a good thing. I like them guys who try to stay out there and are not trying to get off because of who's on the ice. He's a guy who wants to go back out and not come off the ice. That's a good trait to have.
"That's what those guys who win championships, or are big parts of a team's success, that's why they are like that. We can all sit there and watch and say, 'Oh, he can really skate or he can really shoot or whatever.' But there's something else special about top players. That's why they're all top players because there's something else there."