NEWARK, N.J. -- The fourth line of the New Jersey Devils earned plenty of plaudits for their work in the opening three rounds of the playoffs, particularly in the conference finals against the rival New York Rangers.
Los Angeles is also a team that uses all four lines regularly, but it has been the guys on their top three that have seen most of the spotlight in the Kings’ march through the Western Conference.
It was L.A.'s fourth line that had a big night in Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
“You know, they probably had one of the best games in the playoffs so far,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “And they had some really good ones before. Tonight they capped it off with a nice goal. Definitely got us going in the first period.
“Seems like we came out a little slower than we wanted to. The way they came out and established the forecheck, had some cycles in their zone, gave us a huge boost.”
Colin Fraser scored the first postseason goal of his NHL career midway through the first period. It was a perfect, fourth-line kind of goal. Jordan Nolan chipped an outlet pass into the New Jersey zone and raced after it. Andy Greene beat him to it, but Nolan hit Greene twice to help dislodge the puck and then turned to find Fraser cutting toward the net.
“He forced the turnover. He was the guy who did all the work,” Fraser said. “He got in on the d-man and turned the puck over and he just found me in the slot. I just tried to get it off as quick as I could. I wasn’t really aiming.”
Added captain Dustin Brown: “Our first goal is a direct result of our forecheck. We had a lot of chances off the forecheck and there was a couple that skipped over our stick, the puck was bouncing. On the flip side of that I think it's harder for those defensemen to make plays with the ice and puck bouncing like that. Our forecheck was good, it needs to get better.”
Fraser missed a couple of games earlier in the postseason because of a personal issue, but he, Nolan and Brad Richardson have been together on the fourth line when they were available since Dustin Penner was moved to the second unit at the onset of the St. Louis series.
Nolan has spent some time on the second line this season, but those three guys have found some chemistry during this postseason. They all played more than 11 minutes, and Nolan was credited with four hits.
“He’s a big body and he’s got lots of speed,” Fraser said of Nolan. “He gets in on the forecheck well. Even [Richardson] on the other side, he’s not as big but he’s got lots of speed. It is kind of nice as the centerman there. We seem to get on pucks first every time and I just try to stay at F3. I take care of the defense and they do the hard work in the corners.”