Los Angeles Hockey: Bryce Salvador

Rapid Reaction: Game 6: Kings 6, Devils 1

June, 11, 2012

Stanley Cup finals

Game 6

Kings 6, New Jersey Devils 1

(Kings win the series, 4-2)

The good: Forty-five years of existence, six years of rebuilding and four minutes of pure elation merged together Monday night at Staples Center, combining to make hockey all the rage in L.A. once again.

After two missed opportunities, the Kings finally silenced the Devils for a fourth time in this series, clinching their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Better yet, they accomplished the ultimate goal in front of their loyal supporters. The turning point began just past the halfway point of the first period, when Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi was hit from behind by Steve Bernier as he played the puck near the end boards in his zone. Scuderi crumbled to the ice after he slammed face first into the boards and blood spilled from his mouth and nose. Bernier was given a five-minute major boarding penalty and a game misconduct. Since major penalties don’t end when a power-play goal is scored, the Kings took full advantage, scoring three consecutive goals with the man advantage.

Dustin Brown, mired in a slump during the finals, scored the first 53 seconds into the power play, deflecting a shot by defenseman Drew Doughty. Then it was Jeff Carter’s turn to get a piece of Brown’s shot from the slot and he tipped it past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur midway through the penalty. L.A. wasn’t satisfied, as rookie left wing Dwight King carried the puck down the left side and shoveled a short pass through the crease to Trevor Lewis, who flipped it past Brodeur for a 3-0 advantage with nine seconds still left on the major. This wasn’t a power play, this was a power trip. Even better, Scuderi returned at the start of the second period with a nasty gash on the bridge of his nose and his upper lip. Carter welcomed him back by taking a pass in the slot from Anze Kopitar and rifling it past Brodeur 1:30 into the second period for L.A.’s fourth goal on their 14th shot on net.

The bad: From the first game of these playoffs, the Kings had trouble closing out the second period. It happened again Monday night, as Adam Henrique beat three Kings to a loose rebound off a faceoff win and shoved it past the goal line with 1:15 left in the second period, cutting the deficit to 4-1. Dustin Penner then laid a check on New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador that looked like nothing more than a check along the boards, sending him to the penalty box with 17 seconds remaining in the period. The Kings killed that penalty, however, giving their fans a chance to breathe a sigh of relief.

The in-between: It was a rough night for a lot of folks. Not only did Scuderi leave a pool of blood on the ice, but Devils forward Stephen Gionta was struck in the face by a teammate’s slap shot late in the second period and linesman Pierre Racicot had to leave the game after he was knocked down on a rush by Brown during the second period, as well, slamming his head sharply on the ice.

Rapid Reaction: Devils 2, Kings 1

June, 9, 2012

Stanley Cup finals

Game 5

New Jersey Devils 2, Los Angeles Kings 1

(Kings lead the series, 3-2)

The good: So, the Kings have lost two straight for the first time in this postseason, and watched their 10-game road winning streak in these playoffs skid to a halt inside Prudential Center. But look at the bright side, they still lead the series heading back to L.A. Right from the opening drop, Kings right wing Justin Williams had an extra jump to his step and a little more zing on his shot. After drilling his second post in as many games 2:40 into the first period, he didn't let his second prime scoring chance go to waste. The play began with a run-of-the-mill clearing pass by defenseman Matt Greene. Williams collected the puck at his own blue line with Anze Kopitar in front of him. Williams smartly elected to keep the rubber, darting toward the high slot and forcing defenseman Mark Fayne to back off. Kings left wing Dustin Brown cut toward the goal, drawing Zach Parise with him. As Williams reached the high slot, he let go of another wrister that beat goalie Martin Brodeur cleanly, tying the score, 1-1, about 3 1/2 minutes into the second period.

The bad: Puck-handling has long been a glaring weakness in goalkeeper Jonathan Quick’s game and it reared its ugly head in the first period. After the Kings owned the first 11 minutes, defenseman Willie Mitchell went to the penalty box for interference in his offensive zone. The Devils nearly scored in the first minute of the power play when Travis Zajac’s shot from the slot trickled through Quick’s pads, but the puck rolled away from the goal line and Drew Doughty was able to step in and clear it from the crease. About a minute later, Quick came out of the crease to handle the puck with plenty of room to send it forward, but he elected to spin and bounce it off the end boards. He didn’t put enough on the attempt and the puck hit the boards and got hung up on the back of the net. Parise swooped in, beat Doughty to the puck and scored on a wraparound before Quick could get back into position. It was Parise’s first goal of the series, as well as New Jersey’s first power-play goal. Not a good omen considering the team that scored first won the previous four games.

About 5 minutes after the Kings tied the score, New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador let go of a slap shot from just inside his blue line. L.A. defenseman Slava Voynov was battling with David Clarkson in front of the net and both attempted to get out of the way of the shot. The puck got a piece of Voynov, however, and was redirected to the left of Quick, giving the lead back to the Devils, 2-1. It was the second time in the series the puck has caromed off the rookie defenseman and into his own net. The score held up, sending the series back to L.A. for Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center.

The in between: At least the Kings and Devils won’t have to compete with the NBA Finals or the Subway Series for viewership come Monday. The NHL will have the afternoon/evening time slot all to its self.