Devs-Kings: Hail to the Devils; Resilency is Their Middle Name
Thursday, June 7, 2012
By Stan Fischler
If hope springs eternal in the human breast, that word -- HOPE -- also should be featured in lights above Prudential Center's marquee on Saturday night when the resilient Devils host Los Angeles in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Dancing on the ledge of elimination on Wednesday night, the Devils avoided the abyss with a 3-1 victory over the Kings in Los Angeles. All three goals were tallied late in a pulsating, brilliantly played game with Marty Brodeur producing 21 saves in one of the truly outstanding games of his career.
"We were patient," said Brodeur, "and that was one of our keys. We knew we had no room for error. We played solid hockey."
Goals by Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and an open-netter by Ilya Kovalchuk proved that Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is mortal. Henrique scored the winner after the home club produced the tying goal late in the third.
"It feels great because we stayed with it,” said Elias. “We knew that there would be no tomorrow if we had lost. We had good cycles, good puck positions and Rico [Henrique] was terrific on the winning goal. We were true to our game plan, our system. We just don't want to go away."
In the Devils’ favor is the fact that there finally may be some doubt in the head of the Kings. DeBoer's lineup change -- Petr Sykora inserted up front and Henrik Tallinder on defense -- proved a significant plus. Tallinder had been out for months nursing a blot clot that needed more time to heal than anyone expected. All things considered, the Swede held up handsomely.
"I felt ready, although I had a hard time finding the puck at the start," said Tallinder. "And as the game went along, I felt better and better."
Kovalchuk had several glorious chances and finally potted the "cushion" goal in the open net after Quick had been pulled for an extra attacker.
"It feels good because this was our best game so far,” Kovy said. “We forechecked better; we just tried to work hard. After our last loss, my wife was crying. I don't want her crying again."
"We stayed calm the way we did all year," said Henrique. "We just had to focus on our game and we felt we were playing well so far this series."
On the game-winner, Henrique beat Quick with a high shot into upper left corner.
"It went exactly where I wanted it to go," chuckled Henrique.
"We found a way to score the first goal and we found a way to keep the momentum,” DeBoer said. “We finally got rewarded. Henrique made a big-time play; a goal-scorers' goal. I've liked our game and our effort. My players have been rewarded. We knew that if we stuck with it we'd get a good return.
"Now we have to take it home and win another one in Newark. We have to win a home game and I'm confident we'll be ready to play."
New Jersey wanted to open the first period by taking that luxury of a first goal away from the home club. For the Devils, illuminating the first red light was a priority. Instead, Zach Parise got nailed for tripping. Brodeur made a few key saves enabling his club to get its first PP, which, typically, failed without a shot on goal. (Sound familiar?)
Given another man-advantage situation, DeBoer's skaters nearly had one. Sykora's bullet from 15 feet out was nabbed by Quick, who followed with three more solid stops as the PP ended. It was New Jersey's most sustained offensive in a long time; but with nothing to show for it except a high shot count.
If nothing else, the visitors played a strong first period and escaped with a hit crossbar-goal post in the waning minutes. Then, Bryce Salvador was nailed for interference after which Anze Kopitar hit the right post before the buzzer saved the retreating Jersey-ites from further damage although the penalty extended well into the middle period.
After 20 minutes, a pattern already had been established. While the Devils just barely outshot LA, the Kings had many more dangerous thrusts and appeared more confident with every line change. But New Jersey killed the penalty and almost netted the first goal, only for Quick to stop Kovalchuk at the doorstep.
Next, it was the Kings turn to dominate, but Brodeur eased the threat with a shoulder save; and that made it 11 saves apiece for the sharp goaltenders.
The longer the game remained locked at zip-zip, the more it appeared that the first goal would be the game-winner. LA's chance was a penalty to Salvador, but the Devils neatly killed the infraction.
By far, the best scoring chance of the game was Simon Gagne's semi-breakaway. His 10-footer was cooly kicked out by Brodeur. A Devils counterattack was repulsed and once again the Kings has Brodeur in a pincer movement, but he blocked a shot on his doorstep and watched the rebound cleared harmlessly into the corner.
Liking the idea, the Sutter-ites broke through the enemy line with Jared Stoll busting in front of the Devils' net from left to right; bowling over Brodeur while shooting wide. The buzzer repeated its first period service to the Devils, sounding off during an offensive, ending the second period, 0-0.
New Jersey's lack of offense -- plus the resistant Quick -- was an equation that looked a lot more in the home club's favor as the curtain lifted on the third period. At this point, Quick had stopped 81 of 83 shots since the start of the Final round.
A bad Salvador pass led to a Kings 2-0n-1 with Brodeur making a sprawling save on a gamble. Parise's sprint down the left side resulted in a hard shot but easy save by Quick.
New Jersey finally broke through when Elias converted for his fifth of the playoffs, finding a loose puck behind an out-of-position Quick. But David Clarkson was nailed with a boarding call and the Kings immediately tied the count. The penalty to Clarkson was questionable to say the least; a point reiterated by the broadcasting team. Drew Doughty's screened blast punished the Devs for their transgressions and equalized the game.
"My players didn't stop working despite that setback," said DeBoer. "That's what we've been doing all season and that resiliency was key to our win."
"We did a lot of good things and didn't give up,” Clarkson said. “We believe in each other."
Doughty made a diving play to spring Penner on a breakaway, but Brodeur outsmarted him on what looked like the game-breaker. Parise injured his left foot crashing into the boards but the captain then returned to everyone's surprise.
Finally, the decisive play was made by the Devils. It began at the Kings' blue line when Clarkson cleverly moved the puck to Henrique on he left side at the face-off circle. The clutch rookie instantly lifted the rubber over Quick, leaving the stunned crowd gaping in silence.
"We have a lot of heart in this room and will give everything we have on Saturday," concluded Clarkson.
The team that appeared ready to be pushed over the hockey cliff is alive, well and still clinging with hope.
"We wanted one more in our building," asserted Brodeur, "and we got it. Now we'll try to make the best of it!"