New Jersey 3 Los Angeles 1
LOS ANGELES — Put the coronation on hold.
The Los Angeles Kings will have to wait at least three more days for another shot at becoming true hockey royalty after Adam Henrique kept New Jersey alive in the Stanley Cup final. His late goal secured a 3-1 victory for the Devils in Game 4 on Wednesday.
The New Jersey rookie, who scored in overtime to end the Eastern Conference final, showed poise in kicking the puck up to his stick before beating Jonathan Quick high at 15:29 of the third period.
That forced Cup keepers Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell to put the trophy back in its case. Game 5 of the final goes Saturday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
“We finally got rewarded,” said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. “Like I said, I’ve liked our game and our effort the last three games. We just haven’t found a way to win until tonight. So hopefully that gets the ball rolling.”
Until the late winner, this series had the feel of a sweep. Fans came ready to celebrate what would have been the first championship for the Kings in their 45-year history and there was every reason to believe they’d deliver after methodically storming through the playoffs.
But the resilient Devils wouldn’t be denied, keeping alive a streak of 43 straight playoff series in which the franchise has never been swept.
“They believe,” DeBoer said of his players. “They’re in the fight, they’ve got a lot of pride … Like I said, we’ve been in adverse spots before where we played two or three games and haven’t got rewarded because of hot goaltending or we’ve taken too many penalties, and we know we’ve just got to stick with it and it’ll turn. And it did tonight.”
Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said Henrique’s goal came from a misplay between the Kings defencemen.
“Can’t make those long passes and think you can get away with it,” he said.
New Jersey’s Patrik Elias and the Kings’ Drew Doughty traded third-period goals in an entertaining game before Henrique bagged the winner. Ilya Kovalchuk scored into an empty net.
The sellout crowd at Staples Center was again ready for the occasion, sending up a spine-tingling cheer as “It’s Cup Time!” was splashed on the scoreboard before the puck dropped.
The Devils did a nice job of quieting things down with a strong start to the game. However, familiar problems surfaced as they were unable to convert on two power plays in the opening 10 minutes and had to be left wondering if they would ever score another goal on Quick.
The Kings goaltender looked composed and confident once again, coming way out of his crease to challenge shooters and flashing his quick glove on a chance off Petr Sykora’s stick. It was a stylish save that reminded everyone just how dialled in he was.
Following a familiar script, Los Angeles started to come on and would have grabbed the lead if not for two pucks that struck a goal post late in the period. The first was tipped by Justin Williams and took a strange hop after striking iron while the second came off an Anze Kopitar shot.
Veteran Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur wasn’t willing to let what might be his final chance at a Cup go away easily. He kicked out a leg to deny Simon Gagne on a second-period breakaway and was every bit the equal of Quick as the buzzer sounded after 40 minutes with the game still tied 0-0.
It was looking like a toss-up at that point.
Los Angeles wasn’t skating nearly as well as it did in Game 3 while the Devils were showing more grit and making it a tough physical battle. There was no room for error.
Unheralded Kings forward Trevor Lewis had a glorious chance early in the third period but he slid the puck under Brodeur and just wide on a breakaway.
Soon after, Devils captain Zach Parise came streaking down the wing and fired a shot at Quick that left the Kings goalie looking behind him.
Fortunately for Quick, the puck was in his pads.
The amped-up fans did all they could to urge the Kings on — derisively chanting “Maaaarty! Maaaarty!” after Brodeur misplayed the puck and nearly had it end up in his net.
But it was the Devils who ended up drawing first blood with a rebound goal by Elias at 7:56 that briefly gave New Jersey its first lead of the series.
It lasted all of 63 seconds as Doughty’s point shot went through Brodeur’s legs at 8:59. Just like that the score was again tied, restoring a tension that was palpable all night long.
There was no denying the desperation as Doughty dove to knock the puck free to Dustin Penner, who fired wide on the third Los Angeles breakaway of the evening.
With the possibility of a third overtime in four games looming, Henrique’s goal instead ensured the Devils had some life left in them.
“We talked about doing more of the same,” Brodeur said. “We feel that we’ve been playing well this series with zero result. And it’s hard, but you don’t just change for the sake of changing.”