Kings can't capitalize early, drop Game 5
Entering Game 5 Saturday night in Newark, the team that scored first had won 16 consecutive Stanley Cup Final games.
The gears of a 2-1 New Jersey Devils win were set in motion early when Los Angeles' Justin Williams clanked a wristshot off the post less than three minutes in. A few minutes later, while trying to dance out in front of Martin Brodeur on a wraparound, Jeff Carter lost the handle of the puck in a similarly menacing scoring opportunity.
They were missed opportunities that the Kings paid dearly for.
Several whistles after Carter's attempt, Zach Parise took advantage of a misplay by Jonathan Quick behind his own net by stealing the puck on an attempted pass to Drew Doughty, deftly tucking the puck into a narrow opening for an unassisted power play goal that put New Jersey up 1-0.
"It's disappointing, but we know we played the better period than they did," Jordan Nolan said.
That now marks 17 consecutive Stanley Cup Final games that the team that scored first prevailed, and for Los Angeles, it was the second straight evenly played game they suffered from a case of the "woulda, coulda, shoulda's."
Williams has now hit a pair of posts over the last two games, while Brodeur, who denied Lewis and Gagne on breakaways in Game 4, stopped Jarret Stoll on a breakaway in Game 5 by using an old-school tactic in which he came out to challenge the shooter before dropping to the ice to stack his pads.
"He's played well, very well, the last two nights," Darryl Sutter said of Brodeur.
"You know, we're probably saying what they said Games 1 and 2, where we got breaks and now they did. That's how even it is. We hit a couple posts again tonight, and you hope one goes off the post and in."
There was absolutely no faulting the way L.A. came out and dictated the game's pace early on. Their attacking zone time was practically double that of New Jersey's. They outshot the Devils 7-4 and outchanced them by what appeared to be more than a two-to-one margin.
Though they still have the upper hand in a series heading back to Staples Center, this is where the Kings' history is beginning to catch up with them. In the search for their first ever Stanley Cup, there have been a few growing pains trying to eliminate a team that has won three of them since 1995. While looking to become only the second team ever — and first since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs — to erase a 3-0 deficit in the Cup Final, the Devils haven't for one second wavered from their steadfast belief that they were still every bit in the series as Los Angeles.
Judging by the rhythm of the vast majority of this series, they're absolutely spot on.
"You know, I've been singing the same tune since Game 1," Peter DeBoer said. "I said even when we were down 3-0 that I didn't feel that the series was that lopsided."
It has often been said that teams create their own bounces, but by outshooting New Jersey 26-19, implementing their forecheck and controlling large stretches of the game, that wasn't the case for the Kings on Saturday.
Though they've lost two in a row for the first time in the playoffs — shocking, considering they'll play their 20th playoff game Monday — there's no frustration over the way they've approached each period and have battled throughout.
"It would be more frustration if we weren't getting chances. That's it," Matt Greene said. "Obviously it's frustrating to go through the game and get those pipes, but at the same time, you just keep plugging. Keep plugging, and those are going to go in for us."
There's also the matter of how New Jersey scored its second goal, which, coincidentally, was the second goal this series to deflect off Slava Voynov on a seemingly innocuous shot from the blue line while the rookie defenseman was preoccupied with a Devils forward.
It's tough to fault the defenseman in such a play. Rather, it's more indicative that after three games of not getting many bounces, New Jersey's rain dance has led to a steady trickle.
"I thought we survived out there," Brodeur said. "I don't think we played our greatest game, but we found a way to win."