Philadelphia, PA – The good news for the New Jersey Devils is that the weakness of the Los Angeles Kings may have been found. Unfortunately, that flaw is merely the fact that the Kings are not great at sweeping series.
The Kings saw their amazing postseason record drop to 15-3 with a 3-1 setback to the visiting New Jersey Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The setback gave Los Angeles, which jumped out to a 3-0 lead in all four of its postseason series this spring, a 1-3 record in fourth games during the 2012 playoffs, once again proving the adage that the hardest win to gain in a playoff series is the last one.
The trick for the Devils now -- and it's a big one -- is to repeat the formula that produced the Game 4 triumph three more times. New Jersey didn't do a great deal differently in its lone win of this series, but the team did get the benefit of some bounces and goaltender Martin Brodeur rebounded from a poor Game 3 showing to lead the way to victory.
"Not a whole lot different," Devils head coach Peter DeBoer said of his club's Game 4 effort. "We found a way to get the first goal. We found a way to keep momentum. We didn't play any harder. I mean, I think the chances were relatively even again tonight, like they have been most of the games."
It's hard to say the key for the Devils was getting the game's first goal. After all, the contest was scoreless for two periods before Patrik Elias tallied just under eight minutes into the final period and the Kings tied the game 60 seconds after New Jersey grabbed the 1-0 lead.
No, the crucial difference in Game 4 for the Devils was that they were finally able to solve Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick in a big spot. With 4:31 remaining in the third period, Adam Henrique snapped a forehand to beat Quick on the short side. It was a superb shot by Henrique, but it's still surprising that Quick didn't stop it, because he's turned aside just about everything that he's had a good look up to that point of the series.
Quick is still the biggest obstacle for New Jersey to get past in order to pull off what would be an amazing comeback. Of course, only three teams in NHL history have won a series after falling behind 3-0 and the only club to pull off the feat in the Stanley Cup Finals was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.
Obviously, the history doesn't add up for the Devils and Quick's amazing net play simply makes the prospect of winning four straight even more unlikely. Despite surrendering two goals on Wednesday, Quick has still stopped 91-of-95 shots for a robust .958 save percentage in the Cup Finals.
The Devils also will have to become the first home team to defeat the Kings in this year's playoffs if they want to live beyond Saturday's Game 5 in Newark. L.A. is 10-0 as the guest in the 2012 postseason and can set a record for most road wins in a single playoff year with a Cup-clinching victory on Saturday.
"It doesn't matter if we win it here or there," Kings captain Dustin Brown said after Game 4. "Maybe there is a little more sentimental value of winning on home ice, but if we win it there, we bring it right back here."
Considering the first two games of the Cup Finals in New Jersey needed overtime, the Devils have an excellent chance of extending this series to a Game 6 in Los Angeles. But, the goal for the Devils is claiming a fourth Stanley Cup title, and that dream still seams far away at this point.
Even if the Devils stave off elimination again, Quick and the Kings have showed no signs this postseason of being the type of team capable of an epic collapse.
Then again, even though it hasn't played like a No. 8 seed at all in these playoffs, Los Angeles barely qualified for the playoffs this season. Maybe if the Devils plant another seed of doubt, they can get the Kings to remember that time not so long ago when the game of hockey didn't appear to be as simple as it's become for them this spring.
Coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series is like tunneling out of a prison. Everything seems hopeless until that moment when the constant digging finally produces the tiniest bit of outside light.
However, if this Cup Finals is "The Shawshank Redemption," then the Devils have barely dug behind the Raquel Welch poster. That leaves a lot of tunneling to do before getting that glimpse of daylight.