If the best revenge is living well, the L.A. Kings are getting back at everyone who ever even looked at them funny.
They’re closing in on their second Stanley Cup appearance in three years and they live in California.
So chew on that, NHL.
Still, a little old-fashioned revenge, the kind where you stick it to somebody who once stuck it to you, is always good for the soul.
And the Kings, up 3-1 in their series with the Chicago Blackhawks, are just 60 minutes away from shoving a knife handle-deep into the team that eliminated them from last year’s Western Conference final.
“Winning is tough, and sometimes you have to lose again to get that fire back,” said Los Angeles winger Justin Williams. “Last year stuck with me for a long time. We had the Cup (in 2012), they knocked us out and took it. Obviously, that’s on our minds. Knowing that a team got the better of us doesn’t sit well with me.”
It doesn’t sit well with any of them. And even though vengeance on Chicago won’t be the primary motivator when they lace up for Game 5 at the United Center Wednesday — another title is all anyone in black is thinking about — it doesn’t hurt knowing they can kill two Hawks with one stone.
“The whole summer,” said Tyler Toffoli, when asked how long last year’s defeat burned away at his insides. “You want to win the Stanley Cup and, when you lose, it takes a while.
“We’ve got to go try and close them out … but I don’t think we’re worried about what happened last year. It’s a new year. We have a new team and we’re excited (about possibly winning another Cup).”
And if any two teams know better than to think 3-1 is over, they’re the Kings and Hawks. Chicago came back from a 3-1 deficit to Detroit last season and the Kings just came back from 3-0 down to San Jose less than a month ago.
The Kings, who lost three games in a row in each of their first two series, fully understand what can happen when you give a desperate team some life.
“Character comes out a lot more when your backs are against the wall and it’s win or go home,” said Williams. “That’s why the games get harder every game you win. Going into Game 5 we’re obviously going to try our best to finish it off because we know we’re going to have as desperate a team as there is.
“They’re down 3-1. We’re trying to squash them. They’re trying to get some life.”
“It’s going to be the tough one,” added defenceman Jake Muzzin. “They’re the defending Stanley Cup champs for a reason.”
Though the Kings have scored 15 times in the past three games, they’ll be the first to tell you the gulf between the two teams isn’t as deep as 3-1 suggests. If Chicago figures out its special teams issues and gets a couple more saves from Corey Crawford, they might be able to claw their way back into this thing.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” said Kings centre Anze Kopitar. “At the same time, we still realize they took it to us in the second half of last game. There’s certainly stuff that we can look at.
“We’ll have to improve for next game because they’re going to be a desperate team. Their backs are against the wall. We expect their full effort and their full desperation, urgency, whatever you want to call it, in Game 5.”