NEWARK, N.J. - Jonathan Quick tried to make sense of a mishap that clearly didn’t make much sense to him.
It’s something he’s done thousands of times before. Just not like this. Not at this time. Not in this circumstance. He was behind the net. On the puck. A play he normally makes with ease. But for one moment in time the best goaltender of the Stanley Cup playoffs turned into Ilya Bryzgalov and symbolically after that a Stanley Cup Final that wasn’t much of a series suddenly became one.
“I didn’t get it where I wanted it to go,” said Quick, a man of few words on the best of nights and this was not the best of nights for the Los Angeles Kings.
The Stanley Cup was all shined up and ready to be presented at the Prudential Center Saturday night: All it needed was one more win from the Los Angeles Kings. All it needed was for Quick to be as perfect as he has been throughout so much of the post-season.
But his first big mistake of the Final, his first giant mistake since allowing a bouncing shot to beat him against Phoenix, began the alteration of this best-of-seven series.
Seemingly, the New Jersey Devils now lead the Kings two games to three - if it’s possible to do that - the momentum in their favour, the bounces having gone their way for a second straight game, the knowledge that Quick can be beaten, and in this case can beat himself, brings an alteration to the Cup Final that few saw coming.
For the fourth time in five games of the Final, the score was basically 2-1 (one game ended 3-1 with an empty net goal). The first two wins by the Kings required overtime. The two Devils wins did not. And for the first time in the post-season, the Kings have lost a game on the road, lost two consecutive games, lost a game they may have been the better team in.
“All the games have been this close,” said Quick. “It comes down to who gets the bounces.”
And really, it all came down to a first period mistake by Quick, with the Kings buzzing all over the Devils, with the Devils starting Game 5 surprisingly slowly, and with the Conn Smythe favourite in position to make a simple play. Instead, he made a simple error. A rare error. A human element invading the body of a goaltender who seems unbeatable when the series began.
The puck came off the boards to Zach Parise behind the net, the timing couldn’t have been worse for the Kings. Parise is the Devils king of the wrap-around goal. Stuffing pucks from behind the net is just about what he does best. Parise wasted little time and Quick, before he could recover, was eye-witness to a goal he actually assisted on.
“They got the bounce,” he said. “We got the bounce (in other games). Now we’re going to have to refocus for Game 6.
“How do you assess a loss?” Quick repeated the question asked in the near silence of the Kings’ dressing room. “We didn’t win. That’s how you assess it. We didn’t win.”
This was two chances now to win the Stanley Cup, two opportunities lost by the Kings. They get another one Monday night back home at the Staples Center. But the series changed last night in more than score. It changed in form.
Quick was in the Devils head earlier in the series. He was impossible to score on. The Devils had scored two goals in the first 11 periods of the series with Quick on his to all-time goaltending numbers in a Final. Now they’ve scored four goals - five if you count an empty netter - in the past six periods.
“It’s nice,” said Devils’ coach Peter DeBoer, “that we’re finding some holes on him.”
It’s not just nice. It was necessary for the Devils to start believing Quick could be scored upon. And even though the winning goal came on a deflection off Kings’ defenceman Slava Voynov, a goal credited to Bryce Salvador, those kind of breaks were not happening earlier in the series.
“We still need one win,” said Quick. “Our mindset doesn’t change. We’re going to prepare the same, just like after Game 2. We’re going home to get ready for the next game.”
And for the first time in the Final, first time in the Stanley Cup playoffs, really, Jonathan Quick needs to forget. His third opportunity to win the Stanley Cup comes Monday. Time is suddenly of the essence.