SCF Game 4 Recap: Devils put the brooms back in the closet
(headline by @radametz)
Three stars of the game:
3rd star: Martin Brodeur (21 saves)
2nd star: Drew Doughty (Goal)
1st star: Adam Henrique (Game-winning goal)
There’s been a theme in these playoffs for the Devils: resiliency and clutch scoring from Adam Henrique. Those two factors surfaced once again, as the Devils fought off elimination and beat the Kings, 3-1. They now trail the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, 3-1. Both teams will now travel 3,000 miles for Game 5 in New Jersey on Saturday night, where the Devils will look to end the Kings’ dominance on the road. Here’s how they got it done on Wednesday night.
The Devils didn’t get off to the start they were hoping for, as Zach Parise took a penalty just three minutes into the game. The Kings’ power play had been dormant until Game 3, when it produced a pair of goals. Martin Brodeur and the Devils stood tall, as Marty juggling, yet held onto a point shot from Alec Martinez. Brodeur was forced to make three saves on the Kings’ first power play. Shortly after, the Devils had just about four minutes of power play time, on two separate penalties by the Kings. They couldn’t get anything going on the first chance, but started to get some chances on the second power play.
Jonathan Quick matched the Devils, shot-for-shot and save-for-save. His best save of the period came as Petr Sykora, back in the lineup for Game 4, cut into the slot and fired one glove side, but Quick snatched it. Quick then stopped Ilya Kovalchuk’s wrist shot and Zach Parise’s rebound at the side of the net. He later made another glove save on a shot by Alexei Ponikarovsky. Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Justin Williams nearly gave the Kings a 1-0 lead late in the period, but his shot rang off the goal post behind Brodeur. It was a rare display of luck going in the Devils’ favor in the series so far, and it kept the game scoreless after one period.
The Devils had to kill off a carry-over penalty on Bryce Salvador to start the second period, but they did it with ease. Immediately after the successful penalty kill, Ilya Kovalchuk almost scored at the other end. He saw a puck bounce away from him, and he fanned on the shot right in front of the net. The Devils put some pressure on Quick in the opening minutes of the second period, but still couldn’t get anything past him. The Kings started to warm up offensively, and it looked as if the Devils might be in trouble. Luckily, Brodeur was up to the task and had another strong period. Unfortunately, it was still tied after two periods.
In the third period, the Devils controlled most of the play offensively and finally started to forecheck in the Kings’ end consistently. A strong shot from the left circle by Zach Parise nearly beat Quick, as he looked behind him, but he trapped it. Parise appeared to be shaken up later, as he leg got caught in a pile-up, but he shook if off and remained in the game. Eventually, they finally managed to beat Quick. The play started with the forecheck, and eventually Bryce Salvador got his point shot on Quick, and the puck rebounded to Patrik Elias, who backhanded it home for the Devils’ first goal since Steve Bernier’s deflection early in the third period of Game 2. The puck got through the attempted shot-blocking of the Kings, and because they tried to block the shot, they left Elias wide open near the net. It was Elias’ fifth goal of the playoffs.
The lead, the Devils’ first of the series, lasted all of one minute. David Clarkson was whistled for a very questionable boarding call on Dustin Brown, and the Kings went back on their power play. Four seconds and a face-off win later, Drew Doughty’s one-timer found a way through traffic and into the back of the net. The Devils’ lead was gone, and it meant that they would need at least one more goal to force a Game 5. They got that goal with under five minutes remaining in the third period. Mark Fayne pinched along the neutral zone to prevent the Kings from an offensive shift. Ponikarovsky backhanded the puck up the ice and David Clarkson threw it across to Adam Henrique high in the offensive zone. The pass went off Henrique’s skate right to his stick, and he beat Quick stick-side under the crossbar. The pass from Clarkson would have been intercepted had it been aimed for Henrique’s stick. It was either fortunate or a very skilled and intelligent play by Clarkson to aim for Henrique’s skate and just as much on Henrique’s part to shoot the puck. Let’s go with skill over luck.
With under three minutes remaining, Willie Mitchell, the former 8th round draft pick of the Devils in 1996, high-sticked Kovalchuk to put the Devils on a late power play. They didn’t score on it, although they did come very close, including a chance for Travis Zajac on a rebound, but they took two huge minutes off the clock. Following the power play, the Kings pulled Quick, and Ilya Kovalchuk iced the game with an empty net goal, his first career goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. Kovalchuk battled through the apparent injury that’s been bothering him, and had a pretty decent game, in terms of creating offense overall. The Devils won, 3-1.
Henrique is clutch. He scored his third game-winning goal in the playoffs. This one goes along with Game 7 in double-overtime against the Panthers and the overtime series-winning goal in Game 6 against the Rangers. Alexei Ponikarovsky has also been clutch in these playoffs. Four of his seven points have come on game-winning goals. Bryce Salvador, the offensive wizard that he’s become, added a pair of assists of his own in the game. This game, though, as so many other big games before, was made possible by the efforts of Martin Brodeur. The Devils outshot and out-hit the Kings, but the Kings got some quality scoring chances. Brodeur’s finest work in Game 4 came on breakaways by Simon Gagne and Dustin Penner, as well as seven saves overall in the third period to preserve the victory.
The Devils survive another day (three days, actually), as Game 5 will be at the Prudential Center on Saturday night. They’ll look to hand the Kings their first loss on the road in the 2012 playoffs, and force the series back to L.A. again for Game 6. There is genuine belief amongst the Devils that they can keep this going and get back in the series, as there should be. The Devils have come within one bounce and a few inches from winning any or all of the first three games of the series, and outplayed the Kings for much of Games 2 and 3. They held off the Kings in perhaps L.A.’s best effort of the series and won Game 4. Although Vancouver and Phoenix also won their respective Game 4’s to force a Game 5 against the Kings previously, the Devils are confident that this wasn’t just one win to delay the Kings’ party. They’re confident that they have started a comeback.
And after all, wouldn’t that be the perfect Hollywood ending to a fantastic NHL season?