They can’t avoid it now that it’s that time again. The Kings have to talk about the cockroaches in the room.
Alec Martinez memorably described the 2013-14 Kings as “cockroaches” because they wouldn’t die. They became the fourth team in NHL history to win a best-of-seven playoff series from 0-3 down, eventually posting three consecutive Game 7 victories en route to their second Stanley Cup championship.
Eleven cockroaches, or players, remain from that 2014 team, and they take equal parts confidence and caution from that historic run into their 0-3 first-round hole against the Vegas Golden Knights. The series resumes Tuesday night at Staples Center.
“How many times has it been done? Four times? Ever?” Tyler Toffoli said. “It’s not something that is common, obviously. I think if we do talk about it, it will kind of be joked about. But I think we have to focus on winning one game and then once you win the one, you’ve got to think about winning the next one.”
In 2014, when asked how the Kings rallied from 0-3 down against the San Jose Sharks, then-coach Darryl Sutter said nothing and simply counted to four on his hand. It’s simple math, and it starts with one win, but Drew Doughty said the Kings’ current predicament has a different feel.
“Maybe we have a little more confidence going into this next game than we did in the past against San Jose, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Doughty said. “They’ve outplayed us. They’ve beat us three games in a row. It’s time that we wake up here.”
That begins with countering Vegas’ depth.
That 2014 Kings team rolled out Jarret Stoll, Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr, among other cockroach-type depth players who won pucks at the wall and in the corners. These Kings have had trouble scattering as successfully against a Vegas team that has a No. 1 line and little drop-off on the other three lines, plus third-leading scorer David Perron back to help its heavy forechecking style.
Offensively, the oh-my-gosh misses have piled up. Dustin Brown missed an open net in Game 1. Anze Kopitar had an overtime look in Game 2. Toffoli had a golden chance in Game 3 stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a 0.84 goals-against average and .970 save percentage in the series.
Beyond the numbers, it’s officially a rivalry. Look no further than Doughty’s mock-clapping for Jonathan Marchessault after Marchessault’s high-stick on him Sunday. Doughty further taunted him by tapping his head, to show Marchessault the penalty was dumb.
“I’m happy I did that,” Doughty said. “He literally tried to decapitate me with his stick. It’s kind of screwed up that he did that. It obviously probably doesn’t look good on me that I did that, but whatever.
“I don’t like a lot of those guys on that team and I’m pretty sure almost every guy on that team doesn’t like me. It’s just part of playoffs. We’ll do anything it takes to win.”
Stevens was upset that no penalty or supplemental discipline was assessed to Erik Haula for hitting Kopitar with the butt end of his stick in Game 3. But Stevens said it was water under the bridge as the Kings go into Game 4 with recent history on their side.
The Kings lost the first three games to San Jose in 2014 and outscored them, 18-5, the rest of the series to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers as the only teams to successfully erase 0-3 deficits.
To pull that off it twice in five years? As recently as last week, Doughty said those odds were steep when asked about the Kings’ high-panic threshold.
“You don’t want to get back down in that 3-0 because that’s probably never going to happen again,” Doughty said.
Stevens coached the 2010 Flyers and was associate coach to Sutter in 2014. He doesn’t live too deep in the past but played along with the notion that it could happen again.
“To relate to ’14, same way we did it then we can do it now,” Stevens said.
Work is in order at both ends. Stevens said, “Our D as a group can play better than they did” in Game 3, and he is trying to coax more than three goals in three games from the offense.
Cockroaches such as Muzzin can show the way.
“Just believe,” Muzzin said he tells his teammates. “Just believe and trust our team. Trust our plan. Just work extremely hard, and if you believe and trust it … you’ll be able to accomplish some pretty great things.”