Kings forward Justin Williams closes in on a rebound from Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., June 6, 2012. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)
There was no Hollywood ending for the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night as the New Jersey Devils avoided a sweep in the Stanley Cup final and sent the circus back to Newark for Game 5 Saturday.
After trailing for the entire series, the Devils finally scored first in the third period, saw that lead vanish in 60 seconds and rebounded to win 3-1.
The Kings have now lost only three times this spring against 15 wins. All three of their losses have come in Game 4s when they held a 3-0 series lead.
It comes as no surprise to Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick that those Game 4s have presented such a challenge.
“The fourth one is always the toughest. It doesn’t surprise me. You’ve got to compete. You’ve got to work,” he said after giving up more than one goal for the first time in four games. “You’re trying to end a team’s season. They are not going to go down easily.”
“We feel we’ve been playing really well this series,” said Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, “but with zero result. We’re pretty happy to live another day.”
Devils rookie Adam Henrique got the winner with less than five minutes to go in regulation when he whipped a rising shot over the right shoulder of Quick off what looked like a routine 2-on-2 situation. Devils winger David Clarkson snapped a pass over to Henrique, who kicked the puck to his stick and got just enough room against Kings defenceman Slava Voynov to beat Quick for the winner.
It was the first time in four games Quick had surrendered more than one goal.
The Devils opened the scoring eight minutes into the third when Patrik Elias, who had bumped Quick seconds earlier, got hold of a rebound and knocked it home.
Unfortunately for the Devils, the experience of playing with the lead and the chance to make the Kings at least a little uncomfortable lasted but one minute.
On what was a cheesy call, Clarkson was given a boarding penalty for bumping Kings captain Dustin Brown into the wall at 8:52.
Just six seconds later, Kings defenceman Drew Doughty fired a shot from the left point to tie the game.
Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk scored into an empty net in the final minute to seal the win.
The good news for the Kings is they will journey back to Newark with a 10-0 record on the road this post-season. The Stanley Cup has been awarded on the road the last four springs.
The Devils victory set a record for wins by road teams in one playoff year with 47, one more than in 1987.
Elias said the lessons learned during the regular season under coach Peter DeBoer didn’t allow the Devils to let the short-lived lead discourage them.
“Obviously, we wanted to keep the momentum on our side and it was tough to give them a power play right away,” said Elias. “Whether the call is good nor not, that doesn’t matter. You can’t give a team a chance to get on the power play. We have to be better at that. Pete’s done a good job throughout the year no matter what the situation, the score. He still wants us to play keep playing the same way. That encouraged us to stick with the forecheck, putting pucks behind them, be aggressive, get after it and get a win.”
The Devils have gotten off to slow starts in each of their series this spring -- they are 4-8 in the first three games of series and now 9-1 in games four through seven.
“We finally got rewarded,” said DeBoer. “Like I said, I’ve liked our game and our effort the last three games. We just haven’t found a way to win until tonight, so hopefully that gets the ball rolling.”
It’s going to roll all the way back to Newark, at least for one more game.