Phil Pritchard and his bearing of the Stanley Cup are going to have to bear with this Stanley Cup Championship for at least another game. The New Jersey Devils took the broom and its sweeping capabilities out of Los Angeles’ hands Wednesday night. Their 3-1 victory takes the series across the mainland and back to where they reside for Game 5.
Change came to the Devils’ lineup for Game 4. Those who were instated, Petr Sykora and Henrik Tallinder, didn’t directly contribute to the final score of the game, but the variation introduced a Devils’ lineup the Kings haven’t seen since mid-October. Both Sykora and Tallinder were in the Devils’ lineup in each of their regular season victories over the Kings, and if the skate still fits this much later into the season, Coach Peter DeBoer and the rest of the Devils team should plan on wearing it.
A continuous pattern displayed itself through a well-fought and competitively low-scoring 1st period, Wednesday night. The only goals scored in any of the championship’s opening periods were by the Kings whom put a one on the board in the first and second games. Game 4’s 1st period went scoreless despite each team going on power play twice. Neither team was able to turn their power play advantages into scores of their own. The Kings’ Anze Kopitar’s near-miss off of the right post briefly set off the arena’s red lamps, but it was quickly established that the goal did not go in and the period/game remained scoreless.
Martin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick kept to their own respective patterns; keeping the nets they guard as secure as a bank vault. By the end of Game 4’s 2nd period, Brodeur had denied all 14 Kings’ shots and Quick denied all of the Devils’ 11 shots. These two icons have proven themselves to be both contending teams’ primary defensive mechanism, and their combined save-percentage this series is .930.
Getting passed Jonathan Quick means matching your strategy with his own name, and Devils’ veteran Patrik Elias did just that. Elias took a rebound underneath started by a Bryce Salvador and backhanded it passed Quick’s reach at 12:04. The goal was featured by an exceptionally open net, and since the Devils have had many similar looks this series that have not gone in, Elias’ poise and patience should be sought by the rest of the team.
Nearly a minute after Elias’ uplifting goal, the Devils appeared to be faltering again because of a very questionable boarding call on David Clarkson. His hit seemed clean, but within four seconds of box-time, Drew Doughty tied the game at 1 exactly one minute after Elias’ goal. Drew Doughty’s third goal and fourth point of this series was thought to have drained the momentum from the Devils until a certain rookie made an encouraging appearance.
Adam Henrique continued his early stardom in the NHL, and he did it in another manner that should be sought by his teammates: going up high on Quick. Henrique skated up center and reached a wrist-shot up top and beyond Quick’s shoulder with 4:29 left in the third. The shot came on a careful and timely pass from Clarkson whose own poise let him not to overpass Henrique en-route to the Devils’ second goal. The teams fought on for the remainder of the period, but Los Angeles’ chance to pull Quick in the final minutes and add an extra man was hindered by a late high-sticking call to Willie Mitchell. The penalty ran until under a minute left on the game clock, and the team wasn’t able to add a sixth man on offense until their penalty was up with 50 seconds to go.
The Kings’ pulling of Quick eventually came, but Ilya Kovalchuk fortified the Devils’ win with an empty netter at 19:40. Kovalchuk’s goal tied him with Kopitar for most goals in the playoffs. The third goal wasn’t earned with Quick on net, but the Devils will take it being their highest goal-total in this series.
Getting preemptive should not be part of the formula for the Devils. There were many upsides to Game 4, but a project still lies ahead,in, and for New Jersey. The team seemed to pace skate for skate with this elusive L.A. team, and they projected a higher emphasis on crashing Quick’s net. The Devils’ offense seems to have their best chance of scoring against Quick when men are available for rebounds underneath, and Elias demonstrated how it should be done. Many of the Devils shots on Quick in this series have been low to mid-level. His defense seems to thrive on these shots as his relatively smaller size and lower center of gravity gives him an advantage denying those shots.
Of course, suggestions are easier said than done. Nonetheless, when discussing the Devils, there is no sweep for the wicked. Peter DeBoer’s decision to add Sykora and Tallinder to the lineup resulted in a win, and it could trigger a new, Stanley Cup-like chemistry within the team.
All Devils fans are hoping Sykora’s re-entry, Elias’ composure in front of an open-net, and careful lead-passes like David Clarkson’s to Henrique kindle and spread like forest fire throughout the Devils lineup. The time for desire should already exist within all of these New Jersey Devils, but the time for successful continuance is Game 5, Saturday night (and so on.) Devils/Kings face off for Game 5 at the Prudential Center in at 8PM ET, Saturday, in Newark.
Follow Sean McDermott @HEYYuSUCK