EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. – Darryl Sutter was at his sarcastic best on Sunday.
"Yeah, I'm not rattled," the Los Angeles Kings head coach said when asked about overcoming the Game 4 loss to Anaheim. "I'm just thankful I'm alive today. I'm fortunate to pull through after the devastating loss last night."
Sutter joked that he almost didn't make it to his daily media interrogation.
"They had to get me up – Radar and Hawkeye had to get me up to come here today," said Sutter, referencing characters from the television show M*A*S*H.
The point was clear: this is a veteran coach with a veteran team that isn't about to be fazed by losing two straight or by facing a hotshot young goalie.
The Kings lost 20 games during the regular season when outshooting an opponent. Only the New York Rangers (22) and Calgary Flames (21) were ahead of them in that category. So what happened on Saturday night, when they outshot the Ducks 28-14 overall and 19-3 over the last two periods, but still came out on the short end of the scoreboard, is old hat and thus not worth losing too much sleep over.
"Pretty nice out here today," said forward Jarret Stoll. "Sun came out. It's Mother's Day and my mom's here so it'll be a good off day."
Meanwhile, about 30 miles down the road in Anaheim, John Gibson had already been named the Ducks starter for Game 5. Only hours earlier he had become the youngest goalie in NHL history to post a shutout in his playoff debut. It was only his fourth career NHL game. He's stopped 111 of the 115 shots faced in those games (.965 save percentage). It has been a remarkable start to the 20-year-old's career.
"I know he's calm and cool or whatever, but it's our job to make his job a lot harder," said Kings forward Mike Richards.
"It's a lot of pressure to put on a young kid [playing him in this series] and you can say it all you want, 'He's calm, cool,' but if we start getting bodies in front we don't know how he's going to react."
Los Angeles had 25 shots blocked on Saturday and missed on 18 other attempts.
"Most of the goalies in the league are pretty much the same," said defenceman Drew Doughty. "We have a little sheet that we [get] before the game and it's pretty much the same things: whether he handles the puck well, he's usually not good in traffic like any goalie, not good with screens, tips, so that's exactly what we have to do. We have to get the second opportunities and put them in. We just got to bear down and get more goals.
"It shouldn't matter who's in net."
That's basically the exact same message players on the Ducks were telling anyone who would listen after they dropped the first two games at home despite outshooting the Kings and controlling the lion's share of possession. Now the shoe is very much on the other foot.
"The playoffs, really, is about scoring big goals and we were doing that early in the series and winning games that way and they're doing that now," Doughty said. "We want to have possession of the puck and take control of the game like we did in the last two periods last night, but we got to score big goals."
Considering the Kings track record and championship pedigree they are far from flustered. After staring into the abyss of an 0-3 deficit in the last round against the San Jose Sharks they aren't about to let a rookie goalie get in their heads. So there was no cram session on Sunday featuring video of Gibson. After all, Gibson isn't the issue.
"I don't think we've played poorly," said Richards, "but we just haven't gotten to that desperation level that we had in San Jose where you're just fighting for every inch on the ice, and I think that's that mentality that we have to get back to."
The Kings will get a chance to up their intensity level on Monday night at the Honda Center when the series resumes. But Sunday was all about mothers. And Sutter had already placed a call to his mom before meeting with the media.
"Yeah, I did," he acknowledged. "But she was in church. I should've known to call later. That's the last thing I told the players. Make sure they talk to their moms or a mother in their life today."
Stoll won't have to make a call. His mom, Sherri, is in town and he planned on spending the day with her.
"She loved the cowbell," said Stoll, a Saskatchewan native, when asked about his favourite hockey-mom memory. "We had a group of parents who were the loudest group of parents who followed their sons around and my mom had the big cowbell that she'd hammer on and I'm sure it was pretty annoying for some people and you look up in the stands and I'm like, 'That's my mom.'"
As for Sutter, he was asked if had any special plans for Mother's Day.
"Oh no," he said sarcastically. "I'm going to go watch some video on Gibson."