A remarkable rookie and a 40-year-old goalie have kept this Stanley Cup series alive, helping the New Jersey Devils beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 on Wednesday night to avoid a sweep in the finals.
Adam Henrique scored the tie-breaking goal with 4 minutes, 29 seconds to play and Martin Brodeur made 21 saves for the Eastern Conference champion Devils, who forced the NHL to pack up the Cup for another cross-country trip before hosting Game 5 tomorrow night.
Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk also scored third-period goals for the Devils, who lost the first three games of the series.
“It’s a tough situation, but we live another day,” Brodeur said. “We wanted to at least have one more game in our building for our fans. Hopefully, we’ll make the best of it and come back here.”
The Kings have won all 10 of their road playoff games this spring and 12 straight overall — both NHL post-season records — but after never trailing in the Stanley Cup Final, the Kings never led in Game 4.
“I think [wrapping it up] was definitely on our minds, but they found a way to get a late goal,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “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.”
After two tense, scoreless periods in front of fans hoping to see the Kings win their first title in their 45-year history, Elias scored on a rebound with 12:04 to play — but Drew Doughty scored a tying power-play goal for the Kings 1:02 later.
Henrique then scored his third enormous goal of the post-season, taking a pass from David Clarkson and rocketing a wrist shot past Jonathan Quick, the Kings’ nearly unbeatable goalie. The Calder Trophy finalist ended two of the Devils’ first three playoff series with overtime goals, and he kept New Jersey alive with his latest.
“That’s probably the best feeling I’ve ever had in my whole career,” said Clarkson, who took the questionable penalty that led to Doughty’s goal. “I saw [Henrique] coming, so I got it to him, and the shot was incredible.”
Quick stopped 21 shots for the Kings, but lost his streak of nearly 139 shutout minutes right when he probably could have wrapped up the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The Kings had allowed just one third-period goal in their previous nine games.
Kovalchuk added an empty-netter that sent fans streaming forlornly out into a warm evening in Southern California — and put the Devils back on their plane with a chance.
“We stayed alive,” said Elias, who has two of the Devils’ five goals in the series. “Marty had to work hard, but he gave us a chance. All we’ve got to do is keep playing hard.”
With a golden chance for a Hockeywood ending, Los Angeles dropped to 15-3 in their spectacular post-season run, failing to win the franchise’s first championship on their first try — and in their 200th playoff game — in front of the long-suffering fans who have never seen the Stanley Cup.
Los Angeles set an NHL record by taking a 3-0 lead in all four of their playoff 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 ever rallied with four straight wins in the finals, and only three teams in NHL history have done it in any playoff round.