NEWARK, N.J. – There was a time when home-ice advantage wasn’t the New Jersey Devils’ best friend.
If either the rival Rangers or Flyers were in New Jersey, there would be as many New York or Philadelphia jerseys in the crowd as Devils’ colors.
Not anymore, at least not in the playoffs this year.
The Devils have been tough at the Prudential Center, known as the “The Rock,” and they need one more big effort tonight in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final to keep their championship dreams alive and prevent the Los Angeles Kings from capturing their first NHL title since coming into the league in 1967.
It’s a tough task. The Kings haven’t lost on the road since the playoffs started two months ago. They are 10-0, including two overtime wins here in Games 1 and 2.
A bounce or two here or there, and New Jersey might be the one leading the best-of-7 series 3-1.
That’s wishful thinking for Devils fans. The reality is New Jersey has some momentum coming off a 3-1 win on Wednesday night, and it needs to keep winning or else.
New Jersey is 6-4 in the playoffs here after posting a 24-13-4 mark in the regular season. The Devils’ fans are behind them like never before.
“We’re winning, that’s the bottom line,” Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said of the fan support. “I think we’ve played hard and got some success. It’s hard when you don’t win for our fans to be involved and do what they’d like to do, especially the last few years when we played the Rangers and Flyers (in the postseason). It’s tough in this area to play some rivals (that) if you don’t have success, their fans take over the building. But we got the success this year and that made a big difference why we feel a lot more comfortable playing.”
It’s hard to say whether the Kings notice the opposing crowd. They won all three games in Vancouver in the first round, two in St. Louis in the second and three in Phoenix in the third. They are 15-3 overall, with all three losses coming in Game 4s at home.
Now they get another chance to win on the road. The franchise has only made one previous finals: 1993, losing to Montreal in five games.