What a difference a few days makes. The New Jersey Devils became the first team since 1945 to force a sixth game after trailing three games to none in the Stanley Cup Final with a tough 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings Saturday night in Newark.
“It doesn’t matter what people outside here think,” said rookie center Adam Henrique, summing up the defiant attitude this team has. “We believe in each other and we know we can make the comeback.”
In fact, the Devils team motto could easily be changed from “Swarm it up” to “Why not us?” as they attempt to be the first team since the 1942 Maple Leafs–and second in history–to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Stanley Cup Final series.
“You know it’s going to happen again. So why not us?” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said prior to the team’s Game 5 win in Newark. “I think that’s the approach. You’re not going to go 200 years without someone else doing it. So it’s been long enough. It might as well be us.”
With the series headed back to Los Angeles for a decisive Game 6 on Monday night, the pressure is squarely on the Kings to finish the series before having to make another cross-country trip for a dreaded Game 7 that could have historic implications. Despite the obvious mounting strain on his team, Los Angeles head coach Darryl Sutter insisted there is no pressure on his club.
“No. I think zero,” Sutter said Sunday. “You know, New Jersey is playing pretty well, right? But let’s not forget New Jersey is the home team. New Jersey is the team that had the hundred-and-some points. You know what, we expected a long, hard series out of the New Jersey Devils, and that’s what we’re getting.”
The momentum shift in the series has been palpable, as the Devils have taken command since their backs were placed firmly against the wall with a Game 3 loss at the Staples Center. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who looked impossible to beat throughout this entire playoff run, including the first three games of the Finals, has fallen back to earth. Quick hasn’t played poorly, but has looked merely mortal, which has been enough for the veteran New Jersey team accustomed to grinding out wins.
On the other end of the ice, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur has been spectacular. The grizzled veteran has seen it all and appears to be immune to pressure, something that serves a team that is facing elimination every time they step on the ice well. Brodeur has saved his best play, it seems, for when it’s most needed, rising to the occasion and making key saves whenever a Los Angeles goal could potentially steal momentum from New Jersey.
“He was fantastic, especially in that first period, to weather the storm and make some huge saves for us to be able to come back” said forward David Clarkson. “He’s a big reason we’re here today. Some of those saves he made, you’re on the bench shaking your head, wondering how he got it.”
The rock-solid, clutch play of Brodeur, combined with the big guns of New Jersey’s offensive arsenal beginning to heat up, could spell serious trouble for Los Angeles, making Game 6 on Monday night all the more critical.