The Los Angeles Kings have done almost nothing wrong this spring. Their only failing continues to be an inability to complete sweeps.
The Kings are the first team ever to go up 3-0 in all four series in a single playoff year, and they're also the only one to miss out on three chances to sweep in the same spring -- all at home. L.A. lost Game 4 to Vancouver in the opening round, did it again against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals -- and dropped Game 4 for a third time on Wednesday when they allowed three third-period goals in a 3-1 loss to New Jersey that sent the Stanley Cup Final to a Game 5 in Newark on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
Los Angeles was the 26th team to take a 3-0 lead in the Final -- and just the sixth that failed to complete the sweep. The last one was the 1981 New York Islanders, who lost Game 4 to the North Stars in Minnesota before winning Game 5 at home. Before that, you have to go back to 1957, when Boston won Game 4 in overtime at home against Montreal, which won the Cup at the Forum in Game 5.
The last eight teams that had the chance to complete a sweep in the Final had done so, until Wednesday.
The Devils became just the third road team to avoid a sweep by winning Game 4 -- and the first since 1945, when Detroit lost the first three games against the Maple Leafs before winning Game 4 at Toronto. The Wings also won Games 5 and 6, but lost Game 7 at home.
The other team was the author of the most famous comeback in hockey history -- Toronto lost the first three games against the Wings in 1942, won Game 4 at Detroit and went on to win the next three games and the Stanley Cup.
Put away the brooms -- The victory extended the Devils' season for at least one more game -- and it kept alive their streak of never having been swept in a playoff series.
The Final is the 43rd best-of-seven series in the Devils' franchise history -- and they have yet to go down in four straight. That's the longest current streak in the NHL (tied with Pittsburgh), though the Devils will have to go a long way to match the record of 56 held by the Montreal Canadiens (if you count only best-of-seven series, the Canadiens went 75 in a row without being swept).
New Jersey's victory also extends the NHL's streak of not having a sweep in the Final to 14 years -- the last one was Detroit's four-game blitz of Washington in 1998 that capped a run of four consecutive sweeps. The 14-year gap is by far the longest in Stanley Cup history -- before that, the longest the NHL had gone without a sweep in the Final was the eight-year span between Montreal's 4-0 win against Toronto in 1960 and the Canadiens' sweep of St. Louis in 1968.
Road warriors -- The Kings are a perfect 10-0 on the road this spring, but it was New Jersey's win in Los Angeles that provided the record-setting 47th victory by a visiting team this spring. Road teams are now 47-37 in 84 games; before this year, the most wins by visiting teams came in 1987, when they were 46-41 in 87 games.
Can't shoot straight -- The Kings did a better job than New Jersey in getting pucks at the net in Game 4, but paid a price for their failure to get them on the net.
The Devils outshot Los Angeles 24-22, but the Kings attempted 58 shots to 45 for New Jersey. Their problem was accuracy -- Los Angeles missed the net 23 times to just 10 for the Devils.
Game 4 snippets -- For the first time in the series, the Devils got the better of the Kings in the faceoff circle. New Jersey went 34-29 on draws, led by a 12-6 performance by Adam Henrique -- who also scored the go-ahead goal. Kings center Jarret Stoll, who was 30-15 in the circle through the first three games, was 0-for-5 in the first period and 6-for-16 in the game.
Devils forward Patrik Elias scored at 7:56 of the third period to put New Jersey in front 1-0. It marked the Devils' first lead of the series and snapped goaltender Jonathan Quick's shutout streak at 138:39, dating to the 2:59 mark of the third period in Game 2.
The Devils outhit Los Angeles 43-33, the third time in four games they've been credited with more hits. New Jersey forward Dainius Zubrus led all players with seven.
The loss was the first for the Kings in seven games this spring when they've been tied after two periods.
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