LOS ANGELES – Simon Gagne went from not playing in an NHL game in five months to having a potential Stanley Cup-game-winning goal on his stick.
In the second period of a scoreless Game 4, Gagne broke in for a partial breakaway on Martin Brodeur. As the building collectively held its breath, Brodeur made a left pad save and the New Jersey Devils emerged untouched.
"I would have liked to try another chance like that," Gagne said. "On this play, I tried something on the glove side and he made a big pad save. He played well tonight. He was really in it. We knew that he was going to be one of the best goaltenders [we've faced]."
Gagne's second game back after sitting out more than half the season because of a concussion went much like the Kings -- lots of chances and lots of near misses.
Los Angeles shook off a poor start and appeared to follow the blueprint of most of their games but, for the first time in the Stanley Cup Final, they couldn't impose their will on a Devils' team that was tighter defensively and greedy with the loose pucks.
Dustin Brown was set up by Justin Williams for a shot in the slot and the latter's deflection hit the post in the first period. Trevor Lewis broke in on Brodeur but had a backhand go wide in the second period. Minutes later, Brown nearly put the puck in when he intercepted Brodeur's clearing attempt as the puck ricocheted off his skate wide of the net.
All of it made it that much more difficult to swallow a 3-1 loss that sends the series back to New Jersey.
"We couldn't score," Anze Kopitar said. "We had a couple of chances and we didn't bear down. We didn't get a couple of bounces. I know we have to create our own bounces. They played with a little more desperation than we did and we have to correct that in Game 5."
The crusher for L.A. was that it couldn't capitalize on a huge swing when it tied it, 1-1, on Drew Doughty's slap shot from the left point at 8:58 of the third period. It was a trademark response goal from the Kings after the Devils took a 1-0 lead just 62 seconds earlier.
But the Devils denied the Kings of the sweep.
"I think we definitely had the momentum and the next couple shifts we had some good chances," Brown said. "Again, we couldn't find a way to score. Sometimes, that's how it goes."