Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty
NEWARK, N.J. – For the New Jersey Devils, a hero has arisen from an unlikely source.
Bryce Salvador, who missed all of the 2010-11 season because of injuries and did not score during this past regular season, scored his fourth goal of the 2012 Playoffs in the second period Saturday night to lift the Devils to a 2-1 victory inside the Prudential Center.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said of Salvador. “We’re looking for him to score a goal all year, so he peaked at the right time if you ask me. But I think it’s great and deserved, especially where he came from with spending all year on the sidelines.”
With their victory, the Devils now trail the Stanley Cup Final three games to two, heading back to Los Angeles for game six Monday night.
“We’ve gotta win another game to keep playing,” said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer. “I said all along that our group has a confidence in ourselves.”
In a first period that was played at breakneck speed so unlike the other games in the series, it was the Devils who would strike first. On the power play slightly past the midway mark of the opening frame, Zach Parise cashed in on a net mouth scramble. The American captain, who may play his final game for the Devils in the next five days, scored for the first time in the series and ignited his team when they needed him most – especially during a lackluster first period.
“Right, we needed the first goal,” said Peter DeBoer. “Regardless of how it looked…especially because I thought they controlled the first period and they were the better team in the first period. It was a little surprising, I don’t know if it was nerves for us or what. But they controlled the period, and we capitalized on a mistake.”
“We survived out there,” added Brodeur, who made 25 saves and was named the games first star.
After the first intermission, it would not take long for the visitors to tie the game. Justin Williams, who had hit the post in the first period, collected a puck along the half wall and skated to the middle, ripping a shot across his body and past Brodeur. The Kings had the momentum back, and for a team that had not lost on the road in these playoffs prior to Saturday, it certainly felt like this could be another patented Kings comeback.
But just six minutes later, the Devils would reclaim their one-goal advantage with a goal from Salvador. Just like in game one, a puck along the half wall was thrown in front, where it bounced over Quick’s left shoulder off of the back of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov.
“Just trying to get the puck through,” said Salvador. “I just kind of faked a shot there, bought some time to go across, and I think it went off of 16 people and in. Clarkie (David Clarkson) did a great job of going to the net there and making a screen. There’s a lot of things that went right on that shift there and we got rewarded for it.
The Kings earned a power play late in the second period, but could not convert either late in the middle frame or early in the third with their man advantage time. Even through a third period in which they outshot their hosts 9-3, the Kings could not draw even, hitting a post and garnering chance after chance on the Devils’ cage. But Brodeur continued to add to his legend, holding the fort.
“What else can you say,” said DeBoer when asked about his hall-of-fame goaltender. “His performance speaks for itself. It’s the timing of it. He enjoys that type of pressure.”
But now that game five is in the books, the Devils face an alarmingly quick turnaround for a team that is not used to flying cross country. After game two, in which there was only a one day break between games, New Jersey played their worst game of the series and were humiliated 4-0 by the Kings to fall behind 3-0 in the series. For the Devils players, however, none of it matters. At this point, it’s just playing the game, and they believe.
“This is the time of year that you don't care what you have to do to be successful,” said Brodeur. “We could have packed it in two games ago. That's the bottom line. But you see we have a bunch of resilient guys that want to try to make history and try to win the Stanley Cup. We're not going to give up, not because of travel or anything, is going to change the attitude of the guys.”
That’s the kind of attitude you want to see from any player, but especially from a player who is as important to his team as Brodeur is to the Devils.
And for Parise, who has come under harsh scrutiny during this series because of his lack of production, made worse by the letter on his chest, making sure you take it one game at a time is of the utmost importance.
“I mean, we're happy that we're able to get these two and make it a series,” Parise said. We're still in a tough spot. We understand that. We're going into a hard building, try to get another road win, which we've done a pretty good job at this year, winning a Game 7 in Florida, winning some games at MSG, and Philadelphia. We'll be prepared to play. But we feel good. We're back in this thing now. We're making it a series. We're making it interesting. Now our focus is going to shift to getting one out there and bringing this back home.”
As the series shifts back to Los Angeles, it does not seem out of the realm of possibility to say that whoever wins game six will hoist the Stanley Cup – not only because if the Kings win, they will, but if the Devils win, they hold home ice for the decisive game seven and will hold all of the momentum.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter, whose team is trying to avoid becoming the first in almost 70 years to blow a 3-0 lead in the Final, still feels as though his men have no pressure on them, either.
I'm going to say the pressure's on them because they're the home team and they had a hundred-some points, okay?,” Sutter shot after the game.
Nope. Not okay.
The pressure now is on Los Angeles. How they respond to real adversity, which they have not faced at all in these playoffs, will play a deciding role in whether they win their franchises first Stanley Cup championship.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Stanley Cup Final for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.