Forget the Stanley Cup coronation ceremony for the Los Angeles Kings.
The New Jersey Devils suddenly have made things a lot more uncertain.
While the Kings are still a victory away from the first Cup in the club’s 45-year history, the Devils are only two wins short of pulling off a feat in the finals that no team has managed for 70 years, coming back from an 0-3 deficit.
The Devils moved halfway to matching the greatest Cup finals comeback as Bryce Salvador scored on a deflection off a defenseman to give New Jersey a 2-1 victory over the Kings in Game 5, derailing Los Angeles’ Cup coronation for a second time.
It was simple hard work by New Jersey.
The first goal came on a smart play by Zach Parise, the second on a deflection and the club got yet another clutch performance by Martin Brodeur.
Parise ended a five-game goal drought on a rare mistake by goalie Jonathan Quick, and Brodeur stopped 25 shots to help the Devils end the Kings’ 10-game postseason winning streak on the road and 12-game run over the past two years, both NHL records.
”We survived out there,” Brodeur said. ”I don’t think we played our greatest game, but we found a way to win. These are important games to win, especially at home knowing these guys play really well on the road.
Parise said the 40-year-old Brodeur was the difference.
”That’s how a goalie wins the game for you,” Parise said about Brodeur.
Justin Williams scored for the Kings, whose once seemingly insurmountable 3-0 series lead has been cut to 3-2. Game 6 is Monday night in Los Angeles.
More importantly, the Devils have the Kings wondering what’s going on for the first time in the postseason.
This marks the first time they have lost consecutive games this postseason, and the Devils are halfway up a mountain that only one other NHL team has climbed in the finals after losing the first three games.
Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs came back in a best-of-seven finals and won. Three years later, the Detroit Red Wings rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the series, but they lost Game 7 to Toronto. Those were the only other two teams to come back from 0-3 to force a Game 6 until the Devils.
”It’s a difficult thing to get yourself ready for games like that,” Brodeur said. ”Now it’s been two (must-win) in a row. It takes a lot out of you but it is worth it. I think that’s what the guys have been concentrating on all day, leaving nothing out there.
”… Now we are going to LA again to try to ruin the party again,” the 40-year-old three-time Cup winner said. ”They are so close to winning the Stanley Cup that I am sure it is getting to them a little bit, having all these chances and not being able to capitalize a little bit. We’re looking just to stay alive.”
The Kings haven’t played terribly in losing the last two games, but the Devils have made the plays when it counted or gotten the breaks when they needed them.
Take Salvador’s winner, his first goal in seven games. His shot from the left point was deflected right in front of Quick, hit off the chest of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and rebounded into the net at 9:05 of the second period. It was the second time in this series that a point shot by a Devils defenseman hit off Voynov and caromed past his goaltender.
This one turned out to be a winner because Brodeur stood tall the rest of the way and had one shot hit off the goalpost and had a goal by Jarret Stoll on a second-period power play waved off because he hit the rebound with his stick too high.
Brodeur’s biggest save might have been with 7.6 seconds to go in regulation when he stopped a slap shot by Mike Richards from the right circle.
The Kings, overtime winners in the first two games in the series in New Jersey, never got another shot and Brodeur took a patented victory swig of the Gatorade bottle on top of his net, as he has done for 18 years.
However, there was no overwhelming celebration from the home team. Slaps on the pads, a few head nods, then it was off to the locker room.
The Kings meanwhile, heads down, made a bee line for their locker room.
Quick said the losing streak hasn’t changed the way the team feels. It’s the same as it was after winning three in a row.
”It’s the time of the year, you’re going to lose games, you’re going to win games,” Quick said. ”It’s the same as after we swept St. Louis, same as after we beat them three in a row. You stay right here, you don’t get here, you don’t get there.”
As the crowd filed out, again to the 1984 Bruce Springsteen hit, ”Glory Days,” the chants of ”Mar-tee! Mar-tee! were loud and long.
The Kings seemingly had the territorial advantage in the opening period but they also made the biggest mistake.
And it came from a guy who has been almost flawless in the postseason – Quick.
With Willie Mitchell serving the final 20 seconds of a penalty for interference, Quick played a puck in front of his net and tried to send it around the net into the corner. The puck slid off his stick, went around the net and barely made it to the right edge of the crease.
Parise, who had not scored in five games, darted to the edge of the net and stuffed it home a split second before Quick could cover the corner of the net.
”I didn’t put the puck where I wanted to,” Quick said. ”Parise got it and put it in the net.”
Earlier in the penalty, Quick made a stop on a point-blank blast by Travis Zajac. The puck momentarily got through his pads and lay in the crease, but Drew Doughty quickly cleared it.
While Quick made the bad play that led to the goal, he also made a big stop on a point-blank shot by Zajac in the opening seconds of the power play that kept the Devils off the scoreboard.
The Kings were unlucky not to have the lead in the opening minutes. Williams picked up a loose puck in the Devils’ zone and hit the right goalpost dead on with a blast that could be heard throughout the sold-out Prudential Center.
Williams tied it early in the second period, with a great individual effort. He avoided a check skating into the Devils’ zone, cut to the center of the ice and ripped a 30-foot shot into the upper corner of the net past a screened Brodeur.
Minutes later, Brodeur stopped Stoll with a sliding save on a breakaway.
Quick, who was outstanding making 17 saves, stopped Zajac on a backhander in close before Salvador gave the Devils the lead with his fluky goal.
NOTES: Devils veteran C Patrik Elias took a hard fall into the end boards in the first period and lay on the ice for several minutes. He returned to action, but looked slow most of the game. … Devils D Anton Volchenkov was cut late in the second period after being hit in the face by a stick as Richards followed through on a shot.