Bernier’s hit will live in infamy

Right wing Steve Bernier and the rest of the Devils’ third line did so much good work for the team during the run into and including the Stanley Cup final.

But Monday night, after center Stephen Gionta was hit with a questionable check at center ice, Bernier hit defenseman Rob Scuderi into the end boards face-first and, under Rules 41.3 and 41.5, the latter for the blood coming from Scuderi’s face, Bernier was hit with a major penalty and game misconduct. The Kings’ previously shaky power play scored three times in a span of 3:58, sending Los Angeles on its way to a 6-1 Game 6 win and the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

It also sent Bernier to playoff infamy.

The loss put a stop to the Devils trying to become the first team since 1942 to come back from 3-0 to win the Cup final and the fourth team in NHL history to pull it off. They won Games 4 and 5 to plant some doubt in the minds of the Kings, but L.A. came out strong and then erupted on that power play.

“I felt very bad, but it’s a fast game out there and it ends up being a bad play,” Bernier said after the game. “You want to help your team win, not to get five minutes and help them lose. … I didn’t watch (the game). I stayed here and tried to listen to the crowd. It was very hard, for sure. I wish I could take that play back, but I can’t. … Listening and knowing they score three goals, knowing it was your penalty, it’s very, very tough.”

After the game, coach Pete DeBoer, clearly angry after the non-call and then the call, said, “You know what? Tonight is about L.A. and letting them celebrate. If you want to ask me about that in about a week, I’ll give you my honest opinion on it.”

From there, it was the Devils trying to play catch-up. They would score one goal (by center Adam Henrique late in the second period), only their eighth in the series, but by that time it was 4-0 because defenseman Anton Volchenkov inadvertently skated into lineman Pierre Racicot, leading to the fourth goal. No team had ever overcome a four-goal deficit and win a finals game.

So the season was over, ending with left wing/captain Zach Parise potentially headed for unrestricted free agency and goalie Martin Brodeur (and the team) to a final decision about another year. He showed that even at age 40 he’s still the face of this franchise.

“I’m proud of our group,” DeBoer said. “You put some men together and you play 110 games. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

NOTES, QUOTES
Parise realistic about possibly leaving Devils
   –LW Zach Parise might have played his last game as a Devil in Monday night’s 6-1 loss to the Kings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final. He can be an unrestricted free agent July 1 and has expressed a desire to stay, but the Devils don’t have a history of keeping their big-name free agents. Parise didn’t have a strong final series — he had one goal and no assists. He was a minus-2 in Game 6.
   –G Martin Brodeur is 40 and doesn’t have a contract for next season. He is going to play next season and, even though he will become a free agent July 1, there is no sign it will be with anyone but the Devils.
   “I’m not saying I’m going to go after midnight. For me this is a time I can take a little time off. I’ll be back in New Jersey in late June and I’ll figure it out then,” Brodeur said after the finale.
   As far as playing anywhere else, the future Hall of Famer said, “I don’t see myself at all doing that. But, again, I think circumstances are out of my hands. You never know, I guess. I don’t want to. It will definitely have to be something really weird if I’m going to do that.
   “I want to play. I’ll talk to my little girl and see what she thinks. I’m sure she’s going to want to see me play. The Devils is what I am. It’s what I believe in. This is where I want to be, but there are circumstances that are going to be out of Lou’s (GM Lamoriello) and my hands that might (complicate) that.”
   –The Devils fell to 3-2 all-time in Stanley Cup finals. They made their first trip to the final since 2003, when they won their third Cup.
   –New Jersey scored just eight goals in the six-game series against the Kings, just three in the four losses. The Devils scored just three goals in the six losses over the last two series.
   –The 1942 Maple Leafs are still the only team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a final series. The Devils were the third team to go down 3-0 and force as much as a Game 6. The 1945 Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and lost the seventh game to the Leafs.
   –The Devils went 0-for-2 on the power play in Game 6, finishing the series just 1-for-19, and they were 3-for-42 in the last two series and 13-for-85 in the playoffs. They came into Game 6 with 54 kills on 73 opponents’ power play chances but yielded three on the first-period major penalty called on right wing Steve Bernier.
   –The 6-1 loss represented the largest margin of victory in a Cup-clinching game since the Penguins beat the North Stars 8-0 in the 1991 finale.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: “We never gave up. We believed in each other the whole time.” — RW David Clarkson after the Devils fell short in their attempt to rally from a 3-0 series deficit in the Stanley Cup final.

ROSTER REPORT
   PLAYER NOTES:
   –G Martin Brodeur, making his 194th straight playoff start for the Devils, kept his team in the game early but then got hit with three power play goals during a major called on right wing Steve Bernier, leading to a 6-1 loss to the Kings in the sixth game of the final Monday night. Brodeur, 40, is unsigned for next season, but there is every reason to think he will play again and stay with the Devils.
   –RW Ilya Kovalchuk, clearly slowed by an injury (he missed a game in the second round with a herniated disk in his lower back), was a complete non-factor in the finals. He had one goal and no assists. But he had company among the players who are supposed to score for this team.
   “I don’t think anybody was 100 percent healthy,” he said. “It’s 100-something games you play. Everybody is a little dinged up, but you have to find a way to play through it. It doesn’t make any sense to talk about it (his injury). It’s a long summer. We have a long summer to heal everything and be ready for next year.”
   –LW Zach Parise had one point, a goal, in the series; center Travis Zajac posted one point, an assist; center Patrik Elias had a goal and an assist; right wing David Clarkson had two assists and didn’t score a goal in the last 10 playoff games; left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky had an assist in each of the last three games but didn’t score a goal in the last 14; and right wing Dainius Zubrus had one assist in the finals and no goals in the last 12 playoff games.
   –Parise, the captain, didn’t address the team after the game in the locker room, leaving that to coach Pete DeBoer.
   “It was pretty quiet,” Clarkson said of the room. “We believed all the way until that buzzer went. It’s pretty hard to swallow. This is our first time here for a lot of us.”
   –RW Steve Bernier took his place in postseason infamy with a major penalty that led to three goals by the Kings in a 3:58 span of the first period. “I was thinking about him on the ice,” G Martin Brodeur said. “As they scored, I was thinking it had to be killing him. “I told him not to worry about it. It’s not his fault. I’m sure he’s blaming himself. It’s nature to do that. It was a big effect on the game. But again, we got success from him because of the way he plays the game. I think it was an unfortunate call. I didn’t see it so I can’t judge if it was a bad call or a good call, but it took us out of a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
   MEDICAL WATCH:
   –The Devils had all hands on deck at the end and suffered bumps and bruises in the final game, but a key to this team, right wing Ilya Kovalchuk, was clearly not himself in this series because of injury.