- Craig Custance
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NEWARK, N.J. -- In last year's Stanley Cup finals, it took all of one period for it to get nasty. In Game 1, Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows bit the finger of Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron in a moment that set the tone for the entire series. It later led to on-ice taunting and a hatred between the teams that boiled over into this season.
It took a little while, but the 2012 Stanley Cup finals is starting to get there. The third period of Game 5, featured two healthy scrums in front of goalies, one in which Jeff Carter tried to peel the jersey off Martin Brodeur’s back.
"It was a little chippier tonight," New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "You can see the frustration around both nets because both goalies are playing so well. They’re low-scoring games."
With each game the Los Angeles Kings can’t clinch their first Stanley Cup, comes more frustration. And that frustration is starting to show with Los Angeles.
When the Devils are at their best, they’re driving teams crazy with their forechecking and staying out of the after-whistle activity that potentially leads to time in the penalty box. If they can keep their cool while the Kings lose theirs, it makes the potential of a historic comeback look like a real possibility.
"That’s been happening a lot through these playoffs, where teams have been getting frustrated with the way we play, we just try to stay as consistent as we can, stick to our game plan," Devils defenseman Mark Fayne said. "Philly tried doing that. When we stay out of that type of stuff, keep pressing, they start taking penalties and the frustration keeps building."
It adds another layer to a Stanley Cup finals that was stuck on one storyline at the beginning: the Kings' playoff dominance. That dominance is fading away.
New Jersey’s win in Game 5 was the first road loss of the playoffs for the Kings, marking the end of an impressive run. It was also the first time all postseason that Los Angeles lost two consecutive games.
There were questions heading into the postseason as to how the Kings would handle their first taste of adversity. If it ever happened. Until now, their only adversity was not sweeping a team.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter responded by breaking up his top line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams for the first time in a long time. Simon Gagne, playing in only his third postseason game, spent time on the top line.
The players responded by upping their physical play before and after the whistle. It sets up an interesting Game 6 as this series shifts back West since the hatred is growing and it’s not going to go away.
"It’s only a few games left, it’s going to ramp up for sure," Devils forward Adam Henrique said. "That was an intense game from the drop of the puck. We’re not going to expect anything different heading into L.A."
2dScott Burnside and Craig Custance