LOS ANGELES – All right, we appear to have found a chink in what was thought to be the Los Angeles Kings impenetrable armor. They can’t win in Game 4s on home ice. How can a team that goes 1-3 in games where it has its skate on the opponent’s throat hope to win a Stanley Cup?
Or, you could look at it that the Kings now have the New Jersey Devils exactly where they want them. As ineffective as the Kings have been in Game 4, they’ve been just as lethal in Game 5. But you’d have to think the Kings would have preferred to start the party at home and avoid a cross-country trip. They’d also have preferred to have made the trip without the tiniest seed of doubt in their minds, too.
“We wanted to make them jump on a plane and come to New Jersey,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said after his team’s 3-1 win in Game 4. “We have to go anyway, so we might as well get a game over there. It was a tough situation for us to be in. And we pulled it off for one game.”
Brodeur is a proud man and you can bet he didn’t want to go out of this season carrying the ignominy of losing four straight in the Stanley Cup final into the summer. He was terrific for the Devils and for the first time in the series, bettered his counterpart at the other end of the ice. As for the Devils, aside from Game 3, they didn’t look bad at all in this series. But in Game 4, there were two major differences. First they had a much better transition game and finally managed to create some offense off the rush. Second, they were much better equipped, for whatever reason, to deal with adversity. That was evidenced by the fact they didn’t allow a questionable boarding penalty to David Clarkson that resulted in the tying goal deflate them. Instead, they came out and got the winner less than seven minutes later.
“That’s a crossroads, that’s a turning point,” said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. “The fact we pushed back was critical.”
It was also critical that the Devils were finally able to open up the ice a little bit. Until this point in the series, from the power play to their play in the offensive zone, the Devils had been utterly hopeless in any attempt to make the Kings pay for any mistake. But the Devils were much better at turning the puck back the other way and actually carried the puck over the blueline and tried to make plays instead of dumping it in and hoping for the best. On the winner by Adam Henrique, the Devils actually managed to take advantage of a Kings neutral zone turnover. And after trying constantly to beat Jonathan Quick with low shots, Henrique found paydirt with a high, hard shot to Quick’s blocker side.
“It’s a turnover,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “Misplay between the defensemen. Not a coverage play. You can’t make those long passes and think you can get away with it.”
So now we have a series, maybe. The Kings are still 10-0 away from the Staples Center and they’re still in complete control. But if the Devils can manage to squeak out a win on home ice Saturday night, the complexion of things changes radically. When asked whether the Devils had at least planted a seed of doubt in the Kings minds, Devils center Travis Zajac said, “We hope so.”
1. Martin Brodeur: The veteran goalie would not be denied in Game 4, stopping three breakaways and once again giving his team a chance to win the game.
1. Adam Henrique: The young man with the big shot strikes again with a hugely important goal.
3. Drew Doughty: His blast from the point tied the game and he sent Dustin Penner in on a breakaway with a brilliant defensive play at his own blueline.
THE BLACK HOLE
After playing the hero in Games 2 and 3, Jeff Carter was minus-3 and won just one of five faceoffs.
Ken Campbell will file daily from the Stanley Cup final.