EL SEGUNDO, Calif.- Los Angeles Kings left winger Ryan Smyth has not only grown accustomed to the underdog role but to thriving in it.
The 16-season veteran Smyth has never experienced a playoff series in which his team had home-ice advantage but still has a fistful of playoff series wins to his credit. Those victories include three on a run to the Stanley Cup Finals with the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers in 2007.
This year, his Kings are the seventh spot and thus far have accomplished what they need to maintain their chance at upsetting the second-slotted San Jose Sharks. Los Angeles earned a split of the games in San Jose with an overtime loss in game 1 and a domineering win in game 2 to steal home ice in the series.
Smyth said he and his teammates were not caught up on anything but the task at hand, winning game 3 tonight at Staples Center.
“It’s all about opportunity, challenge, overcoming difficult situations throughout a game and finding a way to do it,” Smyth said.
A major reason for the Kings’ bust-out victory in game 2 was their early two-goal surge on the power play, which came despite a woeful finish to the regular season with the man advantage. The Kings have also been razor-sharp on the penalty kill, showing the indefatigable persistence that made them a top-five P.K. team all season.
“Our P.K.’s given us a chance to give us the momentum and we’re capitalizing on the P.P., which is a bonus,” Smyth said.
The goals were scored by Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty, who added an even-strength goal in addition to two assists in the 4-0 win. The Kings earned the win and will have to earn every win from this point forward without leading scorer Anze Kopitar, who remains in a massive leg brace while sidelined for the postseason with a broken ankle.
“Doughty and Johnson were the two players that we talked about when Kopitar went out of the lineup that could really step up and make big contributions to help fill that hole,” Kings Head Coach Terry Murray said.
For San Jose, the focus in the past two days has shifted to special teams after their lackluster effort in game 2.
“A lot of playoff series are won based on power play and penalty kill. You may think I’m crazy, I don’t have as much concern about our penalty kill as I do our power play,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “Yet when you look at the game as a whole, we weren’t very sharp from minute one on. Our execution was very poor 5-on-5, as a result that carries over to special teams.”
McLellan said his fiery post-game reaction after game 2 spilled over into the days that followed with tough questions being asked in the locker room not only by reporters, but by the Sharks themselves.
“We’ve addressed just about all we can address. It’s time to play,” McLellan said.
(Parts of this report were compiled in Los Angeles at the Sharks morning skate).