Martin Brodeur’s 25 saves helped make goals from Zach Parise and Bryce Salvador stand up as the New Jersey Devils dodged elimination with a second consecutive win versus the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final in Newark, NJ. In a game that again was fairly physical throughout, the Kings and Devils exchanged hits throughout the evening as neither team gave an inch of ice to the other. The win brings the 2012 Stanley Cup Final back to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for Game Six on Monday. Though the Kings still lead the series 3-2 and have no worse than two more chances to lay claim to the Stanley Cup for the summer, there probably will be a little more pressure on LA’s men in black to get the job done. The Kings have one last opportunity to close the series at home in order to avoid having to return to New Jersey this Wednesday night for a seventh and deciding game where just about anything can happen. The loss for the Kings Saturday night was their first road loss in these playoffs and first overall road loss since April 7th at San Jose versus the long since departed Sharks.
Jonathan Quick saw fewer shots in Game Five as the Kings defense was a physical factor in the game, knocking the Devils off of the puck at every opportunity. Quick would get his share of challenges in making 17 saves for the evening. New Jersey as the game wore on though would prove to be the more physical team outhitting LA 36-24. For both teams it was a hard fought battle, however it was the Devils desire to say alive and will to live to fight another day that was a factor which kept them going throughout the contest. The Devils are looking to be only the second team in NHL history to rally from an 0-3 deficit to come back and win four straight games to steal the Cup from LA. In 1942, the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off the impossible comeback in taking the Detroit Red Wings in seven games after losing the first three. New Jersey with this win became only the third team in NHL history to force a Game Six after losing the first three games of the final. The Devils are also 9-1 in Game Four through Seven in these playoffs, with the only loss coming to the Florida Panthers back in the first round well over a month ago.
Trading Blows- Game Five started out with a bang as both teams went at one another with hard checks and hard defenses that would define not only the first period but also the entire contest. The Kings would come close to scoring the game’s first goal barely three minutes into the contest as Justin Williams’ slap shot from the point beat Brodeur but hit the left post and bounced away. Nine minutes into the game Willie Mitchell would be whistled for an interference penalty giving the Devils a power play opportunity. Entering Game Five, New Jersey had not scored a power play goal in 15 power play opportunities during these finals. Travis Zajac almost gave the Devils their first power play goal of the series when his point blank wrister slowly squirted through Quick. However, Drew Doughty was on top of the play and slapped the puck out of the crease before Parise could get to it.
A minute later with the power play time running down, Quick made what was probably his first error in the entire series as he played a loose puck in his trapezoid in an attempt to clear it. However Quick did not put much of his stick on the clearing attempt and lost control of the rubber biscuit. Parise, who pitched the puck into the zone initially stayed with the play and came up with the puck, jamming it into the goal before Quick could close off the open are of the net, and before Doughty could knock him off of the puck. The Devils grabbed a one goal lead and held it through the first period despite being out shot 7-4. The goal was also Parise’s first in these finals.
More Exchanges- New Jersey would bring more wood to the ice in the second period and would hit the Kings hard and often. It would be the Kings though that would land the first real hard blow of the period as Williams who just missed a goal in the opening period by hitting a post, would not miss his next chance. Skating up ice, Williams brought the puck across the blue line then drilled a slap shot that beat Brodeur top shelf, just getting the puck under the crossbar to tie the game almost three and a half minutes into the new period. Just a minute later Jarret Stoll on a breakaway had a chance to put the Kings ahead courtesy of a Devils turnover in the LA zone. The Devils Stephen Gionta made a futile attempt to poke check the puck from behind before Stoll was able to get a shot on goal. However, the veteran goal Brodeur was more than ready for the puck and made a pad stack save denying Stoll and the Kings at the doorstep.
Near the halfway point of the period with the Devils controlling the rubber biscuit in the Kings defensive zone, Bryce Salvador would take a cross ice feed pass from Zajac and launch the puck towards the Kings goal. For the second time in this series, the hot biscuit would find the Kings’ Slava Voynov in the wrong spot at the wrong time as the puck would hit him and bounce into the goal before Quick could react. The Devils now had the lead however soon found themselves having to defend it against a Kings power play after Mark Fayne was whistled for a delay of game violation. During the power play opportunity, Brodeur turned away a point blank shot on goal from Williams. Later in the power play, the Kings looked to have tied the game when Stoll batted a puck out of the air and over Brodeur’s shoulder and into the net. However, the goal was disallowed as Stoll had his stick above his waste nullifying the goal. Later in the period, Quick would take one for the team on his end of the ice as he blocked a point blank shot from the Devils’ Ryan Carter, with the puck hitting Quick’s mask before sailing out of play.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades- If the Kings thought the first two periods were tough (and they were), the third period would serve to be a reminder of how the sport of hockey can be frustrating despite a team’s best efforts. Alec Martinez and Stoll would come close to tying the game for LA. However both Kings’ had shots on goal from up close that drew the iron of the goal posts and bounced away. The Kings truly did enough things in the period to battle back and try to take the game in the third period, including holding the Devils to just three shots on goal while they had nine shots (not counting the posts shots from Martinez and Stoll). With just over nine minutes remaining in regulation, Brodeur again denied the Kings at the doorstep as Jeff Carter was unable to jam the rubber biscuit underneath the veteran goalie. A skirmish ensued around the goal once the play was blown dead, but nothing much really came of it.
Late in the period a larger skirmish took place around the Kings goal as Quick made a save on a David Clarkson shot. After Quick had made the save with just under two minutes remaining. Stoll and the Devils’ Adam Henrique got into a wrestling match while LA’s Dustin Penner and the Devils’ Alexei Ponikarovsky became dance partners and were both send to the penalty box for roughing. This created a four on four skating situation for the final 1:46 of regulation. The Kings made one last push to tie the game and pulled Quick for an extra attacker inside of a minute to play. In the final seconds, shot attempts by Doughty and Michael Richards were blocked. Richards last shot hit the side of the net and bounced away going out of play. The Kings had to take the last faceoff outside of the Devils defensive zone with 8.9 seconds left. Even though the Kings won the faceoff and got the puck back into the Devils zone, they simply could not get another shot on Brodeur as time expired.
Up Next: Game Six- The good news for the Los Angeles Kings is that they still lead the series and only need one win for the Stanley Cup to be their’s. Even better news, the game is in LA and the Kings get to feed off of the energy of a sell out crowd at the Staples Center Monday night that has waited a long time to get even this close to the Cup. Though the odds still favor the Kings as does history, LA will want to close this out Monday night. They do not want to see the Prudential Center again until at least sometime next season. If the Devils can steal one more game in LA meanwhile, they know anything can happen in a Game Seven in which they would be delighted to host and play in. The sediment is not the same with the Kings who know now that the time to close this deal is upon them. The LA Kings want to make history and will if they win the Cup. If the LA Kings however don’t get this done in Game Six Monday Night, they have a chance to make another kind of history. It’s a history that they want no part of, joining the 1942 Red Wings. It’s true that the Kings still have two chances to win one game. If you are the LA Kings, you want take care of this in Game Six. Anything beyond that, you don’t want to think about it right now…let alone have happen…
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