NEWARK, N.J. – Forget the Stanley Cup coronation ceremony for the Los Angeles Kings.
The New Jersey Devils suddenly have made things a lot more uncertain.
While the Kings are still a victory away from the first Cup in the club’s 45-year history, the Devils are only two wins short of pulling off a feat in the finals that no team has managed for 70 years, coming back from a 0-3 deficit.
The Devils moved halfway to matching the greatest Cup finals comeback as Bryce Salvador scored on a deflection off a defenseman to give New Jersey a 2-1 victory over the Kings in Game 5, derailing Los Angeles’ Cup coronation for a second time.
It was simple hard work by New Jersey.
The first goal came on a smart play by Zach Parise, the second on a deflection and the club got yet another clutch performance by Martin Brodeur.
Parise ended a five-game goal drought on a rare mistake by goalie Jonathan Quick, and Brodeur stopped 25 shots to help the Devils end the Kings’ 10-game postseason winning streak on the road and 12-game run over the past two years, both NHL records.
“We survived out there,” Brodeur said. “I don’t think we played our greatest game, but we found a way to win. These are important games to win, especially at home knowing these guys play really well on the road.”
Justin Williams scored for the Kings, whose once seemingly insurmountable 3-0 series lead has been cut to 3-2. Game 6 is Monday night in Los Angeles.
More important, the Devils have the Kings wondering what’s going on for the first time in the postseason.
This marks the first time they have lost consecutive games this postseason, and the Devils are halfway up a mountain that only one other NHL team has climbed in the finals after losing the first three games.
Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs came back from 0-3 in a best-of-7 finals and won. Three years later, the Detroit Red Wings rallied from the same deficit to tie the series, but they lost Game 7 to Toronto. Those were the only other two teams to come back from 0-3 to force a Game 6 until the Devils.
“It’s a difficult thing to get yourself ready for games like that,” Brodeur said. “Now it’s been two (must-win games) in a row. It takes a lot out of you but it is worth it. I think that’s what the guys have been concentrating on all day, leaving nothing out there.
“… Now we are going to L.A. again to try to ruin the party again,” the 40-year-old three-time Cup winner said. “They are so close to winning the Stanley Cup that I am sure it is getting to them a little bit, having all these chances and not being able to capitalize a little bit. We’re looking just to stay alive.”
The Kings haven’t played terribly in losing the last two games, but the Devils have made the plays when it counted or received the breaks when they needed them.
Take Salvador’s winner, his first goal in seven games. His shot from the left point was deflected right in front of Quick, hit off the chest of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and rebounded into the net at 9:05 of the second period. It was the second time in this series that a point shot by a Devils defenseman hit off Voynov and caromed past his goaltender.
This one turned out to be a winner because Brodeur stood tall the rest of the way.
Brodeur’s biggest save might have been with 7.6 seconds to go in regulation when he stopped a slap shot by Mike Richards from the right circle.
The Kings, overtime winners in the first two games in the series in New Jersey, never got another shot and Brodeur took a patented victory swig of the Gatorade bottle on top of his net, as he has done for 18 years.