NEWARK, NJ It looks like the Stanley Cup coronation of the Los Angeles Kings might be on hold for the time being.
The New Jersey Devils continued to push upward off the mat after falling down 0-3 in the Stanley Cup Finals, and forced a critical Game 6 with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at the Prudential Center. Bryce Salvador notched the game-winner in the second period when his left point shot bounced off Slava Voynovs backside -- and wobbled into the back of the net.
Los Angeles is now 0-2 with Lord Stanleys Cup present and gleaming in the building, and appeared frustrated and shaken for the first time in the series. The Devils have now amazingly beaten the Kings as many times in this series as the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes combined in the first three rounds of the postseason.
New Jersey also handed Los Angeles their first road defeat in these playoffs after 10 straight Kings wins.
All of those add up to growing trouble for hockey royalty.
Its the first true push Los Angeles has endured through their entire playoff season, and the cracks are starting to show.
Meanwhile the Devils are gathering strength while dropping Los Angeles into a pressurized situation: the Kings need to win Game 6 at the Staples Center or risk winging all the way back to the East Coast for a winner-take-all hockey game at the rink that Brodeur built.
You look across this room right now and you know that everybody else is going to get the job done. Thats the attitude we take into the next game, said Alexei Ponikarovsky. Were still down 3-2 in the series. Marty Brodeur was huge for us tonight again and Zach Parise scored a big goal.
They have a lot of pressure now going back to their building. Obviously they dont want to come back here. This is a tough place to play for them.
The Kings outshot the Devils by a 26-19 margin and poured it on at the end, but the New Jersey Devils are a formidable foe when Parise and Brodeur find their footing.
With Ilya Kovalchuk ailing and largely ineffective in the series aside from an empty net goal in Game 4, Jerseys franchise players need to excel if they hope to keep extending the series.
Thats what happened in Game 5 with Parise notching his first point of the Cup Finals on a hustle goal in the first period, and Brodeur stopping 25 of 26 shots including yeoman efforts in the first and third periods.
The Parise score was the byproduct of a rare Jonathan Quick botch.
The Kings goaltender tried to clear a puck away from the net and instead threw it right on Parises stick. Jerseys captain beat Quick in a race back to the net and stuffed a shot inside the right post before the LA goalie could recover.
Meanwhile the 40-year-old Brodeur was turning back time while the Devils worked through neutral zone mishaps early in the must-win game. It wasnt the Devils best hockey, but the combined efforts of Parise and Jerseys Hall of Fame goaltender washed nearly all their mistakes away.
Our best players were our best players tonight: Brodeur and Parise, Kovalchuk. That's the key this time of year, said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. I wish I was that eloquent that I had more ways to phrase it for you. I mean, what else can you say?
Being able to say theyre still alive is probably more than enough for DeBoer and his Devils.
What was once a foregone conclusion with the Kings dusting off the Devils in four or five games as theyd done to each team in the Western Conference becomes a bona fide series. The Devils are starting to feel it a little bit in a good way, and Brodeur has seen this playoff momentum swing before.
For us it's a matter of us now going into a tough environment in L.A. to try to ruin the party again, said Marty Brodeur. I think they're so close to winning the Stanley Cup that I'm sure it's getting to them a little bitto be able to have all these chances and not capitalize on them.
We're looking to just stay alive. Weve got to win one more game. Whats the scary part for the Kings?
The Devils have gained momentum and improved on each playoff series as theyve marched deeper into them. New Jersey is a mediocre 4-7 during Games 1-3 in this years playoff journey, but they have gone an impressive 10-1 in Games 4-7 while pinpointing weakness in opponents and exploiting matchups.
Were feeling more confident with each passing period, said Devils defenseman Mark Fayne, who suffered Jerseys biggest mistake of the night when he failed to challenge Justin Williams on his second period goal for Los Angeles. I think its the same for everyone. At the beginning of series were kind of feeling a team out. That hurt us, but now its do or die. Were leaving everything out there.
Kings players like Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter hurt New Jersey early in the series, but they were effectively shut down in Game 5.
Kopitar had zero shots and was a complete non-factor in 22:02 of ice time, and many of their big offensive guns were eliminated from the equation. Instead grinders like Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll were left with the best chances to score, and Brodeur wasnt budging on shots from mere mortals.
New Jersey owns the momentum, their key players are coming alive and its no longer an automatic crowning for the Kings as the plot thickens in the Cup Finals.