EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias wasn’t up for a history lesson when it came to that one team that battled back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup Final.
“No and I don’t care,” the veteran said after practice on Sunday.
The Devils are one of 25 squads to lose three games in a row to start off the finals. But by beating the Los Angeles Kings each of the last two games, the Devils are now the third team overall and first since 1945 to extend a 3-0 series to six games.
A victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6 of the finals at Staples Center on Monday and the Devils put themselves in the position to become the only team outside of the 1942 Maple Leafs to overcome a 3-0 debt and win the Cup.
“I don’t look at it as what a great accomplishment to be in a 3-0 hole and to claw your way back out,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’re trying to win a Stanley Cup. If I had my way, we would have never got in that hole. I didn’t feel we deserved to be in that hole. That was the hand we were dealt. We made a little bit of our own bed there and now we’re stuck with trying to get out of it.”
The odds certainly improve with a victory. Only two teams down 3-0 have extended to seven games: the Leafs 70 years ago and the 1945 Detroit Red Wings, who lost in the decisive seventh game that year to the Maples Leafs.
A 50-50 proposition sounds pretty attractive for a team many left for dead a few days back.
“I think it’s a testament to character, to gut check (and) to leadership in the room — all those things,” DeBoer said. “That’s when the rubber hits the road, so to speak, for your season and for your team. We have had an ability to rise to the occasion.”
It’s been a combination of breaking out of a scoring slump that saw only two goals over the first three games and goaltender Marin Brodeur backstopping what amounted to one-goal victories. (Game 4 included an empty-net goal.)
“I won my last two games, so that’s what I’m here for,” said Brodeur, who made 25 saves in Saturday’s 2-1 Game 5 victory. “We’re in a desperate situation. Everybody has to chip in. We’ve all played well as far as the team is concerned. In the first three we played well, too, but we just didn’t get the results.”
Brodeur, Elias and Petr Sykora were on another Devils team that came back from a deep deficit. That came in Eastern Conference finals in 2000 where the Devils trailed the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1, only to advance and then win the Cup.
“We had a similar approach,” Elias said. “Just win one game at a time. That’s all you can do. You can’t look to win three games in a row. You want to win the first period to have a chance to win one hockey game. It’s one period at a time.”
DeBoer said the pressure remains on the Kings, who may have let that weight get to them — like when Kings forward Jeff Carter yanked Brodeur’s jersey over his head during a Game 5 scrum.
“You could see some frustration,” DeBoer said. “That’s understandable. That’s the spot we want to put them in. We want to keep that pressure on them.”
A Devils victory on Monday and the pressure will not only intensify, so does historical proportions of comeback — and collapse.