Los Angeles Kings at New Jersey Devils (-111, 4.5)
(Kings lead series, 3-1)
When New Jersey forward Adam Henrique deposited a wrister past Jonathan Quick in the third period on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, the pending party in what they’re calling “Hockeywood” was put on hold. Where this series goes from here, is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure. This is the last Saturday night special of the season.
The Devils have a long way to go, and history says they won’t come back from an 0-3 hole, but don't tell coach Peter DeBoer that. After all, the first-year leader who orchestrated upsets of the team’s two biggest rivals -- the Flyers and Rangers -- has built up some bravado this postseason.
Although New Jersey is already 0-2 at home in the Finals, DeBoer believes the best is yet to come for his Devils. “I really believe it's easy,” he said Friday. “We know every time we can win a game and chip away, that goal gets a little closer. I know it's a cliché, but I think we win Saturday night, the series maybe takes a turn.”
Maybe he’s onto something. After all, New Jersey dictated large pockets of play in the first two home games and lost both in overtime. Now, after a third period in which the Devils scored three goals to win Game 4 in Los Angeles, maybe there’s a little confidence in the locker room.
“We don't know what they are saying in their locker room or anything,” New Jersey captain Zach Parise said. “But in our minds, we hope.” It would help, of course, if Parise got on the scoreboard. Though he has 12 shots on net, he’s yet to register a point against the Kings.
Kings of the power play
Los Angeles played well in Game 4, and may have deserved a better fate than a 3-1 loss. But as the Kings searched for positives on the six-hour flight back to Newark, it could certainly begin with the power play. Drew Doughty beat Martin Brodeur from the point with the man advantage in the third period on Wednesday night, continuing the power play's surge.
“Our power play has moved around pretty good,” Los Angeles forward Justin Williams said. “We had ample opportunities to score. The power play's going well.” The Kings actually have nine postseason power-play goals.
Of course, New Jersey was the league’s top penalty-killing unit in the regular season this year. If the Devils ever find their groove again with a man down, the Kings’ success might reach an end in a hurry.
Just not himself
New Jersey forward Ilya Kovalchuk scored an empty netter on Wednesday to finally dent the scoresheet in the Finals, but it’s clear he’s not himself. Bruised and battered throughout the postseason, Kovalchuk is still bothered by a back issue.
Kovalchuk is coming off his best game of the series. In addition to the goal, he finished with four shots, just one fewer than he had in all of the first three games combined. He’s still not grinding it out like he has most of the season -- he only has two hits all series -- but he’s getting there.
“It's important for players' confidence,” Parise said of Kovalchuk’s empty netter. “Of course, whether it's an empty net or the goalie is in there, it's important for a player to get on the board and just feel better. For us, that's going to go a long way when he's feeling good about his game.”
Looking at the lineups
Kings coach Darryl Sutter is likely to keep his standard-fare lineup and not make any changes for Game 5. DeBoer, who inserted defenseman Henrik Tallinder and forward Petr Sykora for Game 4, is likely to use both players again, in place of Peter Harrold and Jacob Josefson, respectively.
The Kings are 10-0 away from Staples Center this postseason, and are 2-0 in Game 5s when having lost Game 4 at home with a chance to end a series this spring. Los Angeles won at Phoenix and Vancouver in closeout Game 5s. The Devils have won 10 of their last 14 home games, but have lost two in a row in Newark. The under is a perfect 4-0 this series.