New Jersey Delivers Gutsy Effort, Merely Delay Inevitable As Kings Still Prepared to Hoist Stanley Cup


New Jersey Delivers Gutsy Effort, Merely Delay Inevitable As Kings Still Prepared to Hoist Stanley CupThe Stanley Cup is going back into its case.

But the names that will eventually be engraved on it this year are not going to change.

There was no celebration Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The Devils stayed alive in the Stanley Cup Final, averting a sweep with a 3-1 win in Game 4.

It was a gutsy effort for New Jersey, which could have easily folded on the road after dropping the first three games. But the Devils merely delayed the inevitable.

The Kings are still in complete control of this series. They are on familiar ground.

They have jumped out to 3-0 leads in every round this postseason, with a chance to close out the series on home ice each time. Only once have they managed to do it. But the Kings are also still a perfect 10-0 on the road in the playoffs. They bounced back to win Game 5 on enemy ice after the first two times they lost the fourth game.

And there's no reason to think they won't do that again with a change to hoist the Cup Saturday night in Newark. And truly, that just goes to show how much hockey players will sacrifice to get their hands on that historic chalice. The Kings are even willing to go back to Newark.

There's history waiting to happen in New Jersey. The Kings have a chance to win the first title in franchise history, the crowning moment of a long and strange road from expansion oddity in 1967 to true hockey royalty.

They can do it by making NHL history as well. They already share the record for most road wins in a single postseason with 10. They can sit alone in the record books with an 11th road victory on Saturday. And while Los Angeles fans may have enjoyed seeing the Cup skated around the Staples Center ice on Wednesday, it seems more fitting for the clinching win to come away from home.

The Kings have a chance to become the first eighth seed to win the Cup. They have begun every round on the road, beating top-seeded Vancouver, second-seeded St. Louis, third-seeded Phoenix and East champion New Jersey in their own barns in back-to-back games in successive series. So what's one more trip back East?

The Kings may be undaunted by Wednesday's rare setback and it isn't likely to change the outcome of the series, but it was an important statement by the Devils. Getting this close to the Cup and falling short will always be excruciating, but being swept aside in the Final really would have put a damper on what has been a pretty impressive and surprising run by New Jersey as well.

The Devils were seeded just sixth in the East, and had to open on the road against Southeast Division champion Florida and Atlantic Division rivals Philadelphia and New York in the first three rounds. Starting the Final on home ice may have been the one disadvantage the Devils couldn't overcome.

But New Jersey did prove a worthy opponent with their game effort on Wednesday. After battling to a scoreless draw through two periods, the Devils finally broke through against Kings netminder Jonathan Quick when Patrik Elias backhanded in a rebound at 7:56 of the third.

That lead didn't last long, with Drew Doughty tying it up exactly one minute later, just four seconds after David Clarkson was called for a questionable boarding penalty. The Kings had all the momentum at that point. Even their power play was suddenly clicking again. They now are 3 for 6 on the power play in the last two games after going 3 for 65 in the previous 14 games.

But the Devils didn't panic. They weathered Los Angeles' brief surge, then beat Quick for the second time in the same game for the first time all series. Clarkson made up for his penalty with a crossing pass to Adam Henrique, and the rookie who scored series-clinching goals against both the Panthers and Rangers delivered another memorable game-winner, beating Quick short-side from the left circle with 4:29 to play.

After such a remarkable run through the Eastern Conference, the Devils deserved one more moment in the spotlight. Just don't expect any more.

The Kings are still in control. They have this series right where they want it, back on the road with a chance to chug champagne out the Cup on Saturday night. And that's something to cherish, even if you have to go to Newark to do it.

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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