Devils’ comeback ends with Game 6 loss to Kings

The New Jersey Devils’ dreams of a historic comeback were all

but dashed less than 11 minutes into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup

finals.

Just 10:10 in, Steve Bernier drilled Los Angeles defenseman Rob

Scuderi from behind into the end boards and essentially took his

club out of the game. Bernier was given a major penalty and was

ejected from the game.

”He turned back,” Bernier said of Scuderi. ”I feel very bad,

but it’s a fast game out there, and it ends up being a bad play.

You certainly don’t want to get five minutes for it. I wish I could

take that play back.”

The Kings took full advantage of the 5-minute power play and

scored three times in a span of 3:58 en route to a 6-1 victory that

clinched Los Angeles’ first Stanley Cup championship in the

franchise’s 45-year history.

”It was just an unfortunate situation with a player who plays

the game really hard, and he’s going to have to live with that,”

Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. ”I don’t think it’s a fair

thing, but that’s what happens when one person has the fate of a

hockey game in their hands. I talked to him and told him it’s not

his fault. I can’t say if it was a good call or not.”

New Jersey trailed 3-0 after the first period and 4-1 through 40

minutes. The Devils had little left for the third period, when the

Kings went into lock-down mode and added two late insurance

markers.

”I didn’t want to hurt my team, I wanted to help them,”

Bernier said. ”This is extremely hard. It’s been a long playoff

run for us. To finish on that note, it’s not fun for sure. But

there’s nothing I can do now.”

The Devils were trying to become just the third team to force a

Game 7 in the finals after trailing 3-0. Only the 1942 Toronto

Maple Leafs came all the way back to win the Cup, and New Jersey

was thoroughly thwarted by the Kings in Los Angeles’ third shot at

the title.

While it is of little consolation, New Jersey became the first

team in 67 years to even get to a sixth game in the finals after

falling behind 3-0.

”You don’t give yourself a lot of room for error,” captain

Zach Parise said. ”We found ourselves in a pretty deep hole before

we even realized that the finals started. But we didn’t quit. We

really felt that we could get back in it and force a Game 7.”

But Bernier never gave them a chance to take the series back to

New Jersey.

”Everybody feels bad, but he shouldn’t. He’s done a lot of good

things for this team,” right wing David Clarkson said. ”There’s

no fingers being pointed – at refs or anywhere else. He threw a

bodycheck. I didn’t think it was that bad of a play. But we dug

ourselves a bit of a hole there and couldn’t come out of it. It’s

tough to swallow.”

Bernier slammed Scuderi behind the Los Angeles net, driving him

headfirst against the boards. The hit left Scuderi dazed and

bloodied before he left the ice under his own power and headed to

the dressing room. Scuderi returned to the bench, but Bernier was

done for the night – and the season.

”That’s what he’s been doing the whole playoffs. He’s been

doing a great job of getting in on the forecheck and finishing

checks,” Parise said. ”That’s why he’s here. That’s what you want

from him. ”It’s just unfortunate that it happened. It’s not his

fault.”

Kings captain Dustin Brown scored first at 11:03, and Jeff

Carter made it 2-0 at 12:45. Just 16 seconds later, Trevor Lewis

poked the puck past the 40-year-old Brodeur’s glove after Dwight

King’s centering pass squirted through the crease.

”I don’t know if we were salivating when we got that power

play, but we were just determined to capitalize on that

opportunity,” Doughty said. ”We knew that this was our chance to

put that team away and we did just that.”

Adding to the Devils’ frustration was a one-timer by New

Jersey’s Patrik Elias that rang off the right post just 38 seconds

before the first period ended.

Carter made it 4-0 just 1 1/2 minutes into the second period,

beating Brodeur with a wrist shot from the slot.

By then, all that was left to determine was the final score.

Adam Henrique cut the deficit to 4-1 with 1:15 left in the second

period, but the Devils couldn’t get any closer.

The Devils also lost Ryan Carter and Clarkson to 10-minute

misconducts that forced New Jersey to play with a diminished corps

of forwards for large chunks of the game.

Defenseman Bryce Salvador also served a 4-minute high-sticking

penalty in the second period that didn’t produce a goal, but milked

important minutes off the clock.

New Jersey was outdone by the Western Conference champions this

time, and scored only eight goals in the six games. The Devils

dropped a pair of 2-1 overtime decisions at home in the first two

games, and fought uphill the rest of the way.

The Devils were whistled for nine penalties that totaled 47

minutes in Game 6, after coming in with an average of just 8.7 in

the playoffs – the second-fewest in this postseason.

New Jersey recorded only 18 shots on goalie Jonathan Quick, who

won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Brodeur, who backstopped

New Jersey to Cup titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003, made 19 saves in

the clincher.

”They started to play really hard in Game 5, and they had a lot

of momentum tonight,” Brodeur said. ”The major power play came at

a time when the crowd was going crazy, and they were really feeling

good. Those are situations where before we’d fight through it.

Tonight, we didn’t.”

For the second straight season, the Devils will be facing major

offseason questions.

A year ago, New Jersey was left to figure out how the club

missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Now the Devils

will have to face the possibility they will have to replace Brodeur

and Parise, who could be on the move as one of the most attractive

unrestricted free agents on July 1. The 27-year-old left wing, who

has spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Devils, is coming

off a 31-goal season.

Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history, has hinted that

he would like to return next season at age 41.

”This season and this playoff run answered a lot of questions

about where my game’s at, and I’m really happy to hopefully

continue,” Brodeur said.

If Brodeur and Parise return, the Devils could be poised for

another deep playoff run despite playing in the tough Atlantic

Division that produced four 100-point teams this season – the last

being New Jersey, which was the No. 6 seed in the East.

”We took down our two biggest rivals, the Flyers and the

Rangers, and we took this series to six games,” Brodeur said.

”It’s disappointing, but it’s been a great season. We came a long

way to challenge for the Stanley Cup from not making the playoffs

last year.

”There’s only one team that can win. It’s not us this time, but

we’re proud of what we’ve done.”