The New Jersey Devils were party-crashers in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Now they can demonstrate they are serious contenders to win a championship and not just spoilers who kept the Stanley Cup out of the Kings' hands for a few more days.
The Devils take to the ice in Game 5 Saturday night in New Jersey three days after ruining the Kings' plan for a four-game sweep and subsequent celebration in LA's Staples Center.
The Cup was in the arena, as were the biggest crowd in the long-suffering Los Angeles club's history as well as Hollywood celebrities and past Kings heroes.
The Devils refused to follow the schedule set by their opponents, winning 3-1 to stave off the Kings' first championship until tonight, at the earliest.
"We're pretty happy to live another day, there's no doubt about that," said Martin Brodeur, the Devils goaltender. "We just wanted to play well, give everything we had, and see where that's going to bring us."
The Kings should enter the game with confidence: They have won all 10 of their road play-off games this spring and 12 straight overall - both NHL play-offs records.
But after never trailing in the Stanley Cup finals, the Kings never led in Game 4.
Dustin Brown, the Kings captain, said wrapping up the club's first championship "was definitely on our minds, but they found a way to get a late goal. We've just got to hit the reset button. We've been in this situation now four times in the playoffs, and we've always come back with a big rebound game."
The Kings made NHL history by taking a 3-0 lead in all four of their play-offs series, but failed three times to close out their opponents in Game 4. Vancouver and Phoenix also won Game 4 before losing Game 5.
The Devils became just the sixth of 26 teams in finals history to force a Game 5 after falling behind 0-3. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs rallied with four straight wins in the finals, and only three teams in NHL history have done it in any play-offs round.
"I think the last three games could have gone our way as easily as they've gone LA's way," the Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We finally got rewarded."
The Kings opened their first Stanley Cup finals in 19 years with two tense overtime victories in New Jersey, surviving largely on the brilliance of Jonathan Quick, the goaltender. They returned home and routed the Devils 4-0 in Game 3 on Monday night, setting the stage for a celebration.
But the Devils got into the details, and the Kings must regroup.
"We couldn't score," Kopitar said. "We had a couple of chances, and we didn't bear down. We didn't get a couple of bounces in, and you have to create your own bounces. They played with a little more desperation than we did, and we have to correct that in Game 5."
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