NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils rookie Adam Henrique knows this feeling of crawling back into a series after falling into a 0-3 hole. He savored it two years ago in the OHL playoffs when he was playing for the Windsor Spitfires against the Kitchener Rangers.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Zach Parise was quite honest about his first goal of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.
"You've got to get lucky sometimes," he said of his first-period power-play goal in the New Jersey Devils' 2-1 win against Los Angeles in Game 5 at Prudential Center that cut the Kings' lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2.
When Devils assistant coach Adam Oates, the architect of the team's power play, is imagining ways to crack the Kings' nearly invincible penalty kill, he isn't drawing up the series of events that led to Parise's goal.
NEWARK, N.J. -- After three rounds of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings looked nothing like the team that struggled to score goals before a few personnel changes in February.
After winning the first three games of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, there were few concerns for a team won victory from a championship. Now there is -- the Kings aren't scoring goals like there were a couple of weeks ago.
Los Angeles has only eight regulation goals in five games against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils, and four of them came in one contest. The Kings do have two overtime tallies, and that is a huge reason why they are up 3-2 in this series and not behind.
The Devils fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta, and Steve Bernier has been a source of energy and timely scoring throughout the postseason. But the most surprising aspect of that line's success may be that its center isn't really a natural center at all. That versatility has allowed head coach Peter DeBoer and the Devils to adjust from game to game, prolonging the team's Stanley Cup Playoff run.
"I was a little worried to start but I kind of like playing center now," said Gionta. "I just need to work on my faceoffs more."
The ability of the Devils' forwards to shift from one position to another has been an asset for New Jersey, most recently during Game 4 in Los Angeles. That night against the Kings, DeBoer inserted veteran winger Petr Sykora onto a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus, forcing Elias to move to center. On his new line that night, the longtime Devil scored his first goal of the series.
"Patrik played center before. He knows how to play it," said Alexei Ponikarovsky. "We have a few guys like that, who know how to play either wing or center."
In a postseason that has seen the Devils trail 3-2 to Florida, 1-0 to Philadelphia, and 2-1 to the Rangers, the ability to mix things up and adapt has been key for a team looking to complete a comeback for the ages against the Kings. And it’s the adaptability of New Jersey's forwards that could be key if the team wants to make history.
"It's more of a forward position rather than right wing, left wing, center," said Gionta. "I think guys have done a good job of that throughout the playoffs, filling in the different spots."
Despite the long odds that lie ahead in Game 5 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final and beyond, the Devils brought a calm, collected approach into the game Saturday night at the Prudential Center.
"There's no need to be uptight and not smile and not have fun. You've got to be able to enjoy it," said Adam Henrique, the rookie forward. "This is a situation where there is nothing we can do except go out and play. Guys are still coming in smiling and having fun."
Attempting to come back from a 3-1 deficit in games, it certainly helps to have a strong veteran presence from players like Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias, two long-time Devils with five Stanley Cup wins between them. The team also appeared to benefit in Game 4 from the return to the lineup of veteran Petr Sykora, who with his appearance Wednesday night has now appeared in six different Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams.
"It's just a veteran presence we have in the locker room. Guys who have been to the Final a few times," said Stephen Gionta, another rookie. "It's a calming feeling when those guys are just sitting back and loose and looking forward to playing tonight."
That veteran presence helps, but there's no substitute for experience, and this Devils team has gained plenty of it during the past two months, coming back from a series deficit in each of the first three playoff rounds. That ability to battle adversity has given New Jersey a cool confidence that could come in handy if they hope to prolong their season.
"The confidence just comes from within the room. At this time of the year, in the situation we are, the last thing you want is panic or negative thoughts. You have to think positive, stay positive," said Alexei Ponikarovsky. "Why you have to get worried? About what? It's hockey. You go and play [hard], get another goal, tie it up, then all of a sudden momentum swings and you get another one."
In the New Jersey Devils' wild run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, a number of big names have made plays to prolong the postseason in Newark. But it's two young forwards in particular who have provided the bulk of the team's heroic moments.
The only Ontario-born players on the team, David Clarkson and Adam Henrique, are tied for the NHL postseason lead with three game-winning goals each and have combined to set up four game-winning and three game-tying markers. That flair for the dramatic hasn't just kept the Devils alive in the playoffs, it has added fuel to a friendly rivalry that has been going on in the team's locker room much of the season.
"I guess it's an OHL thing. I've still got to let Zach [Parise] know it's the best league to play in before coming to the NHL," joked Henrique, who scored two series-winning overtime goals before notching the game-winner Wednesday night against the Kings. "He tries to play it off like it's nothing, but I think he knows where the real hockey is."
Playoff heroics aside, Henrique and Clarkson have been outnumbered in the NCAA vs. OHL debate much of the season. Aside from team captain Parise, who attended the University of North Dakota, the Devils locker room is filled with several U.S. college products. They include fellow UND product Travis Zajac as well as Andy Greene (Miami-Ohio), Ryan Carter (Minnesota State-Mankato), Stephen Gionta (Boston College), Peter Harrold (Boston College), and Mark Fayne (Providence). But even surrounded by U.S. collegians, Henrique and Clarkson feel plenty confident representing "the O."
"We bug the college guys. There is always that college-OHL argument in here. It's more fun than anything," Clarkson said, who has plenty of support for Ontario within the organization. "We've got a large crew of OHL guys to hold it down. It's just a little joke we have in the room."
That crew holding it down has considerable sway in the Devils' locker room. Of the five members of New Jersey's coaching staff, four are Ontario-born and have coached or played in the OHL. That group includes head coach Peter Deboer, who played for the Windsor Spitfires for four years before returning to the league as a coach and eventually winning a Memorial Cup with Clarkson and the Kitchener Rangers in 2008.
The Devils' focus remains staving off elimination against the Kings in the Final, but the NCAA-OHL debate could wage on long after the series ends.
"We've got a lot of guys who have our backs on that one. It's fun," Henrique said. "I give it to them [college players] all the time about that."
Now we have an 'X' next to our name, which is nice. Now we have to keep trying to climb and catch these guys.