There were a lot of ‘firsts’ that came from tonight’s 2-1 Game 5 win for the New Jersey Devils. Most importantly, for the first time this postseason the Kings looked outside of their element and have watched the Devils inch back into the series.
For the first time since 1945, a team trailing 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final has forced a Game 6. How did the Devils do it tonight?
It started with Zach Parise’s fluke goal in the first period. Parise entered the game with zero points in the series, leading some to believe that he is playing hurt. He may be, but he didn’t show it when he pounced on a bad turnover from Jonathan Quick behind the Kings’ net. Parise stuffed in the loose puck to score his first goal since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final.
That goal, their first via the power play this series, really seemed to set the tempo in the Devils’ favor. In the initial 10 minutes of the opening frame, both teams were getting chances. The Devils got a confidence boost after Parise scored and were winning one-on-one battles all over the ice.
The defining moment for the Devils came in the second period when Martin Brodeur stacked the pads to stone Kings forward Jarret Stoll on a breakaway attempt. At the time of Brodeur’s save, Justin Williams had just tied the game at 1-1 for the Kings and they seemed to have grasped the momentum. All of that disappeared when Brodeur made the big stop on Stoll to prevent the Kings from taking the lead.
A few minutes after Brodeur’s save, Bryce Salvador caught a break when his shot from the point caromed past Quick and into the Kings’ net. The Devils went up 2-1 with 10:55 remaining in the second period and never looked back.
For the first time in these playoffs, the Kings lost on the road. Their pursuit of a perfect road record, 11-0, went up in smoke with tonight’s loss. There were times where they put pressure on Brodeur. They got some good looks early in the game and occasionally during the second, but couldn’t generate much in the third. Mike Richards had a pair of quality chances in the waning seconds, both one-timers from the faceoff dot that couldn’t find a way past Brodeur.
The Kings weren’t in control of the game like they have been all spring.
They were chasing a Devils team that had more energy playing in front of their home fans than in Games 1 and 2. Despite being credited with nine third-period shots, the Kings were bottled up for most of the final frame. In crunch-time, their stars didn’t rise to the occasion. Quick, for the first time, looked rattled and was fighting the puck at times.
Now the Devils are halfway to history. There’s no guarantee that they can complete or comeback or even force a Game 7, but you can’t win four in a row without winning the first two. Brodeur has been stellar in the last two games, out-dueling Quick between the pipes.
On the other side of the coin, the Kings need to regain their ‘mojo’ quickly. Darryl Sutter, who is now 0-4 in Stanley Cup close-out games, needs to settle the troops down after arguably their two worst games of these playoffs.
Because for the first time this postseason, the Kings will be playing in a Game 6. Coming into this series, pundits were quick to point out that the Kings hadn’t overcome adversity all spring, while the Devils thrived with their backs against the wall in the first three rounds.
So for the first time this postseason, the Kings are facing adversity. Will they finally lift the Cup on Monday night, or will the Holy Grail be locked up in its case to flown across country again for a Game 7?
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