Rookie Adam Henrique had another huge postseason goal and New Jersey defeated Los Angeles 3-1 in Game 4 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, ensuring another home game Saturday at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) and providing hope that a comeback is still possible.
"We never give up. We always believe in ourselves," said Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk, who iced the win with an empty-net goal in the final 20 seconds. "It is nice -- nobody [is] ready to go on vacation. We've got another week to play. We're going to see what happens."
Another record-setting hockey crowd at Staples Center was ready for a coronation, and the Stanley Cup was in the building by the time the final period began. Los Angeles had a chance to match Edmonton's incredible 16-2 playoff record from 1988 and become the first team to win the Cup on home ice since archrival Anaheim did so in 2007 -- five years ago to the day.
Instead, the Devils finally solved Jonathan Quick, matching their goal total against him from the three previous contests, and the Kings will have to head to Newark for another chance at the Cup.
"More than yesterday," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said when asked if he has more belief now. "You know, I think we wanted to make them jump on a plane and come to New Jersey. We had to go anyway -- might as well get a game over there. I think it's a tough situation, you know, for us to be in. We pulled it off, one game. We'll take it one game at a time. But I'm sure they're not happy to make that trip. We'll try to make it miserable for them again."
The Devils became only the sixth team in 26 tries to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final after falling behind 3-0 in the series, but one of those previous five teams that won Game 4 also won Games 5, 6 and 7 -- the Toronto Maple Leafs did so 70 years ago.
Henrique, who also has two overtime goals in this postseason, took a pass from David Clarkson and scored from the left circle with 4:31 left in regulation on the first clean shot to beat Quick in this series.
Henrique was also part of a team that rallied from a 3-0 in the 2010 Ontario Hockey League playoffs when the Windsor Spitfires defeated the Kitchener Rangers before eventually winning the Memorial Cup.
The 22-year-old from Buford, Ont., scored the series-clinching goal in overtime in the opening round against Florida and the conference finals against New York. He has four goals in this postseason; three are game-winners.
"You know, everybody wants to be out there in those situations," Henrique said. "You want to be counted on by your teammates, your coaches. It's nice that they have that trust in me to put me out there in those certain times of the game. I just play. I'm not thinking about what's going to happen if I score, if I don't score. I'm just a kid playing hockey, having some fun."
Kovalchuk hit the empty net with 20 seconds left for his first goal of the series, assuring a Game 5 in Newark on Saturday. Los Angeles has won all 10 road games this spring, including Games 1 and 2 of this series at Prudential Center -- all three of the Kings' losses this spring have come at home in Game 4 when they had a chance to complete a series sweep.
The Devils have never been swept in a postseason series, a streak that is now at 43 and counting.
"We couldn't score," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "We had a couple of chances and we didn't bear down. We didn't get a couple of bounces in and you have to create your own bounces. They played with a little more desperation than we did and we have to correct that in Game 5."
After two scoreless periods, the teams matched goals 62 seconds apart in the first half of the third period.
Patrik Elias gave the Devils their first lead of the series when he backhanded a rebound past Quick at 7:56. Bryce Salvador's shot from the left point kicked to the right of Quick, and Elias was able to tuck home the rebound.
"It was big -- was it our first lead of the series?" said Devils forward Dainius Zubrus, whose hard work got the puck to Salvador for the shot from the point. "Well, go figure. It was big, just to kind of ... I thought we were playing pretty good to that point. The second period wasn't great, but our forecheck was a little better, our dumps were better -- we had some more offensive time."
Quick immediately went to the nearest official to protest, contending that Elias had bumped into him just before he made the original save, but no call was made.
The lead lasted all of 62 seconds. On the faceoff after Clarkson was called for boarding, Drew Doughty's shot from the left point deflected off the shaft of Zubrus' stick and went past Brodeur with Dustin Brown as a screen in front to get the Kings even.
On several occasions this postseason, the Kings have answered a goal against with one of their own and the opposition broke. Not on this night.
"Honestly, it was just ‘Stay with it,' " Zubrus said. "We feel like not many things have [gone] our way so far, but at the same time, that's how we play. We can't change now. We're playing hockey in June, so we must be doing something right. Maybe just try to do it better and stay with it, stay positive."
Neither team was able to break through in the first two periods. The Devils wanted to put more shots on Quick in this contest, but mustered only 11 in the first 40 minutes.
The Devils had eight shots in the first period and just three in the second, including one in the final 17:52 of the period and none in the final 13:59. Getting 13 in the third period was more like what they hoped to accomplish.
Both teams had a pair of power-play chances in the first period, but Brodeur and Quick kept the contest scoreless. The Kings remained perfect killing penalties in this series, and are now 67-for-72 in the postseason.
The Devils go home with a bit of hope restored and the chance to really put some doubt in the minds of the Kings. But it's hard to say this will be an uncomfortable situation for Los Angeles -- the Kings could set an NHL record with 11 road wins in one postseason.
"We feel that we've been playing really well this series, but with zero result," Brodeur said. "We're pretty happy to live another day. There's no doubt about that. We just wanted to play well, give everything we had, and see where that's going to bring us."
Added Quick: "Obviously we played well on the road, but at the same time we try to play the same way whether you're on the road or at home. We're just focused on the next one and that's all it is."