The New Jersey Devils are back in the friendly confines of the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, after finally getting a win in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of their best-of-seven series on June 6, avoiding a four-game sweep.
To their credit, the Devils could have easily gotten frustrated and down on themselves heading into Game 4. Instead, they came out with their best performance of the series, following a similar pattern of playing their best in Games 4-7 of a playoff series this season.
“I don’t have an explanation for that, said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer after Game 4. “I haven’t found a significant jump in our play in the second half of a series. I just think we find a way to get everything clicking, where early in the series some things haven’t worked.”
The Devils have earned a 9-1 record in Games 4-7 of each of their playoff series prior to the Stanley Cup Final this season.
“I think we, as a group, have done a good job of recognizing what’s working and what isn’t working against certain teams, kind of fixing it as the series has gone on,” DeBoer indicated. “That’s the same thing here. We’ve been in adverse spots before where we’ve played two or three games, and haven’t gotten rewarded because of either hot goaltending, or we’ve taken too many penalties. We know we’ve just got to stick with it and it will turn, and it did tonight.”
A key for the Devils was getting a couple of bounces with players around the Kings net.
“We need to get more goals like [Devils forward Patrik] Elias’ goal,” DeBoer stressed. “I think we’ve had people in those positions. We haven’t stuck them in. That’s constantly something that has to get better for us.”
“[Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick] is a great goalie,” DeBoer added. “The more people, the more bodies, the more pucks around that net, the more we’re going to get we rewarded.”
Despite playing better as they get into the latter games of a playoff round, the Devils know the odds are still stacked heavily against them, in terms of coming all the way back from a 3-0 series deficit. Despite that, they still believe.
“There’s no question [that they still believe they can win the series],” said Devils rookie center Adam Henrique, who scored the game-winning goal late in the third period. “There’s no better time than now to do it. Seems we waited to get that first one under our belt.”
“It was a hard-fought game,” added Henrique. “It was close from start to finish. Coming down to the wire, it seemed whoever was going to get the next one with five or ten minutes to go was going to grab the win. We have to take it one game at a time. That’s the bottom line.”
With goals by Elias and Henrique, along with an empty-net goal scored by Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils’ top players finally got to Quick.
“I think it was just—I don’t know if it was so much him, or just the fact that we were missing great opportunities, missing the net, not executing five-on-three,” said Devils forward and team captain Zach Parise. “I don’t think it was so much like, for example, against [New York Rangers goalie Henrik] Lundqvist, we were throwing 35, 45 shots at him, and couldn’t get anything by him. Quick is getting a lot of credit, and he deserves it, but the whole team should get credit for how good of a job they have been doing limiting our opportunities.”
Prior to Game 4, the Kings had thrown a heavy blanket over the Devils’ top forwards.
“They pressure all over,” DeBoer noted. “They are very good, you know, with their pressure, and the guys they use killing penalties. A lot of their offensive players, [forwards Mike Richards, [Jeff] Carter, [Anze] Kopitar, [and Dustin] Brown, they are dangerous guys. So I think that that definitely helps.”
Veteran netminder Martin Brodeur, who was the best player on the ice in Game 4, said his team is looking forward to getting back in front of their home crowd.
“We definitely are looking forward to the next game and some of the momentum,” he said. “Finally, we were able to score goals on Quick, not many, but enough to win. Hopefully that’s going to be a good thing for the boys coming home, that we’re a little better offensively on home ice.”
“I think we wanted to make them jump on a plane and come to New Jersey. ”We had to go anyway. Might as well get a game over there,” he added, with a smirk. “But I think it’s a tough situation for us to be in. We pulled it off, one game. We’ll take it one game at a time. But I’m sure they’re not happy to make that trip. We’ll try to make it miserable for them again. Played them well, played them hard. We’ll see where the result is going to end up.”
Game 5 will have to be an opportunity that the Devils take advantage of, or else. In any case, they are looking at it positively—the only way they can.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said DeBoer. “I mean, we can be the first team in a long time to climb out of this hole, in this situation. As our general manager [Lou Lamoriello] said, there’s 28 other teams sitting at home that would love to jump into this spot, even the hole we’re in, and take a shot at trying to win this thing.”
“We’ve got to take it home, take care of business now, and win another one,” added DeBoer. “We’ve got to win a home game. We’re a good home team in front of our home crowd. I’m confident that we’ll be ready to play, and we’ll get the job done.”
“Our focus hasn’t wavered. Our guys believe. Our guys believe we can win three or four games in a row. We’ve had that, I think, from kind of the midpoint of the season on. I don’t know if there’s one box I can put it in exactly why. It’s part personnel, part of the leadership in our room. A lot of it’s on our goaltender, how he plays.”
“They believe. We’re not done until they tell us we can’t play any more.”
2012 Stanley Cup Final, New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings, Game 4 Highlights, June 6, 2012
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