Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Devils finally get some good karma
By Scott Burnside ESPN.com
LOS ANGELES -- So, maybe it was David Clarkson's superstitious cutting of his beard.
Or maybe it was the hockey gods supplying Clarkson and the New Jersey Devils with their first bit of good karma in this Stanley Cup finals after things looked bleak in Game 4.
Or maybe it was just the Devils' turn to get a break or two.
Regardless, Clarkson's pass to rookie Adam Henrique, and Henrique's deft ability to take the pass from his skate to his stick and send a quick shot past seemingly impenetrable netminder Jonathan Quick gave the Devils a 3-1 victory Wednesday night, cutting the Los Angeles Kings' series lead to 3-1.
While Henrique continues his clutch ways this spring -- the goal snapped home from the left side, glancing in off the post with 4:29 left in regulation was his third game-winner of the playoffs -- no one was more relieved to see the puck hit the twine than Clarkson.
Clarkson was whistled for boarding Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown just 54 seconds after the Devils took their first lead of the series on a Patrik Elias goal.
It was a penalty that many believed was a soft call, including the Devils, who felt they were victimized by a blown call on the first goal in Game 3.
Just four seconds after the penalty call, Drew Doughty tied the game with a hard shot that eluded netminder Martin Brodeur.
The goal energized the Staples Center crowd as they sensed that perhaps the Cup-winning goal was in the offing.
"To get that penalty and them score, I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't sitting in the box with a bit of a sore stomach; that feeling you get," Clarkson said.
"To be able to go out there and have a guy like Henrique take the puck and make a play like that was probably the best feeling I've had all season when that went in. That was better than scoring any goal I've ever scored. When it went in, I think it went off the post and in, it was the best feeling I've had in my career so far. I don't know if it was because I was out of the doghouse or because it went in, but it was a pretty special feeling."
This was hardly a classic as the Kings seemed strangely passive for a game that could have seen them win their first-ever Stanley Cup championship.
And, following a well-worn script for the Devils in this series, they generated very little on their end.
At one point the Devils went more than half a period without registering a shot on net and their woeful power play continued its assault on futility, going 0-for-3 on the night. They have now come up empty on 15 straight power-play chances in this series.
While the scoring chances were fairly even as the scoreless duel moved through the third period, the Kings seemed to find more energy, enjoying better quality chances.
Brodeur, who was terrific in stopping 21 of 22 Los Angeles shots, foiled Trevor Lewis on a two-on-one after a horrific giveaway by Bryce Salvador at the Kings' blue line.
Dustin Penner blasted a shot wide on a partial break down the left side not long after the Doughty goal, and there was a sense that it was just a matter of time before the Kings would take the lead and extinguish the Devils' playoff flame.
But that's not how it played out as Henrique reprised his role as hero with 4:29 left in regulation. Ilya Kovalchuk added an empty-net goal for his first point of the series.
"We were a little angry because that penalty was a really tough one to call, but that's [a] referee's job to referee and our job to play, so they decide to give us that penalty, they score but we never give up and Henny scored a huge goal," Kovalchuk said.
"I think our fans deserve to see a couple of more games in the final and we're going to just take another step at a time and go back home and regroup and play our best game."
Everyone knows the history of teams that fall behind 3-0 in best-of-seven series, so there remains a belief, at least outside the Devils locker room, that Wednesday's outcome merely delays the inevitable.
That and the fact that the Kings are an NHL record 10-0 on the road.
Nonetheless, at least for a couple of days until Game 5 on Saturday in Newark, N.J., the Devils can relish the fact they found a way to get the job done, avoiding the ignominy of being swept out of the finals and planting perhaps a small seed of doubt in the Kings' minds.
"Well, you hope so. That's the plan. We've got to take it home and take care of business now and win another one," DeBoer said.
Now they need to nurture that seed.
"They've got a lot of pride. Like I said we've been in adverse spots before where we've played two or three games and haven't got rewarded because of either hot goaltending or we've taken too many penalties. We know we've just got to stick with it and it will turn. And it did tonight," DeBoer said.
As the Devils packed for a game many did not believe they'd be playing, someone noted that Clarkson had disposed of his bushy playoff beard.
"Things weren't working. Just to change it up. The beard was a little bit annoying," Clarkson responded a little sheepishly.
"When we were down three I just changed it up a bit."
Who said there's no such thing as karma?