New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk, of Russia, (17) celebrates with Zach Parise after scoring an open net goal in the third period during Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Devils won the game 3-1. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
NEWARK, N.J. - The Los Angeles Kings are suddenly doing things for the first time in these playoffs, and none of them are good.
Yes, the Kings are hoping to claim the Stanley Cup for the first time, but they have gone 0-for-2 in that department. The latest setback on Saturday night, a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, cut Los Angeles' lead to 3-2 and left the Kings with only two chances to claim the championship.
For the first time in this post-season, the Kings have lost two straight, have lost twice in the same series, and are dealing with a road defeat. Los Angeles had won a record 10 in a row away from home in these playoffs, and 12 consecutively on the road, dating to last year's playoffs—also an NHL mark.
They still have a share of the record with 10 road wins overall in a single playoff year, but for the Kings to own that mark themselves, they will have to return to New Jersey for Game 7 and more negative history staring them in the face.
"We definitely don't want to come back here," defenceman Rob Scuderi said.
They won't have to if they can win Monday night at home in front of their fans, who have been waiting since the team began play 45 years ago for a title. The Kings dropped a 3-1 decision at home in Game 4 in their first shot at the crown, and they are determined not to let a second chance slip away.
"The game before we certainly weren't good enough," forward Justin Williams said of Game 4. "Tonight we weren't good enough by a little hair. It's a game of inches. There are battles going on all over the ice that just us players see. We're losing just a few more than we're winning."
STRONG FINISHES: As has been their trademark throughout the playoffs, the New Jersey Devils are becoming more formidable as series get deeper and deeper.
The Devils gained life with a win in Game 4, and built on it with another victory Saturday night in front of their fans, who were appreciative that their season didn't end in a sweep.
New Jersey is 10-1 in Games 4 through 7 of their four series in this year's playoffs after going 4-8 in Games 1 through 3. Though an 0-3 hole is nearly impossible to dig out of, it has happened before—including in the 1942 finals when the Toronto Maple Leafs won four straight to shock the Detroit Red Wings.
"We're still alive," winning goalie Martin Brodeur said. "We have a chance. It's not a difficult thing to get yourself ready for games like that. Now it's been two in a row. It drains you a lot. It takes a lot out of you. But it's worth it.
"That's what the guys are concentrating on, getting themselves ready, leave everything out there. We'll see where everything's going to fall. We were able to pull two tight games on our side, like they did in Game 1 and 2. So it's a matter of us now going into a tough environment in L.A. to try to ruin the party again. I think they're so close to winning the Stanley Cup that I'm sure it's getting to them a little bit, to be able to have all these chances and not capitalize on them. We're looking to just stay alive. Got to win one more game."
CLOSE CALLS: The Devils' 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night was the 50th one-goal game in this year's playoffs—just one shy of the mark set during the 2007 post-season.
Three of the first five games in the series between New Jersey and the Los Angeles Kings were decided by one goal, with all three games on the Devils' home ice settled by 2-1 scores. Games 1 and 2 of the series were won by Los Angeles in overtime.
The only one-sided game of the series was the Kings' 4-0 home victory in Game 3, but that one was still 2-0 in the third period. New Jersey's Game 4 win that kept the Devils alive would've been a one-goal victory if not for Ilya Kovalchuk's late empty-netter that provided some breathing room.
STEPPING UP: The New Jersey Devils are used to big performances from Martin Brodeur in playoff wins. Getting big-time production from defensive-minded defenceman Bryce Salvador is totally different.
Salvador was credited with the winning goal in New Jersey's 2-1 victory over Los Angeles, that cut the Devils' series deficit to 3-2, when his shot caromed into the net off of Kings defenceman Slava Voynov in the second period.
Salvador has four goals and 10 assists in 23 playoff games this year, and his 14 points are tied with the Kings' Drew Doughty for the post-season lead among defencemen. Salvador had only nine points—all assists—in 82 regular-season games. His playoff point total is the most by a player who recorded fewer than 10 during the regular season.
"You're seeing a bunch of individuals having success because the team is having success. Not just me," Salvador said. "There's a lot of guys contributing. Right now everyone's enjoying it because we're getting some momentum.
"I went 82 games without scoring, so any goal I can take, I'm taking it. Whenever you can contribute on the score sheet, you enjoy it."