Kings-Devils series starting to feel more like typical Stanley Cup finals
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org June 10, 2012 7:46PM
The Devils’ Marek Zidlicky and the Kings’ Dustin Brown get all tangled up in the first period Saturday. | Kathy Willens~AP
STANLEY CUP FINALS
KINGS VS. DEVILS
Kings lead series 3-2
All games at 7 p.m., Ch. 5
G1: Kings 2, at Devils 1 (OT)
G2: Kings 2, at Devils 1 (OT)
G3: at Kings 4, Devils 0
G4: Devils 3, at Kings 1
G5: at Devils 2, Kings 1
Monday: at Kings
x-Wednesday: at Devils
x- if necessary
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:10AM
NEWARK, N.J. — Finally.
It took five games for some hate and bile to emerge in the Stanley Cup finals between the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings, but it finally did.
At times, the series had felt more like a bland coaching clinic in defensive hockey than an emotional Stanley Cup finals. That was until Game 5 on Saturday, which should make for an even better Game 6 on Monday at Staples Center.
It usually takes some brash characters to incite things in the playoffs, but there aren’t many players like Dustin Byfuglien, Scott Hartnell, Alex Burrows or Brad Marchand in this series.
Even Kings captain Dustin Brown hasn’t been his typical knock-you-down self, a style of play that was on full display when he laid out members of the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes with nasty precision earlier in the playoffs.
Two years ago, it didn’t take long for Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger and then-Blackhawks brute Byfuglien to run into each other, setting off a battle that carried on through the series. Pronger instantly became a villain in Chicago, although Hartnell and now-Hawks enforcer Daniel Carcillo weren’t far behind him.
Last year, the never-ending antics of the Canucks — from Burrows’ finger-biting to questionable knockout hits to on-ice taunts — led many to call them the most hated team in the league as the finals played out against the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins weren’t angels, either, as Marchand’s incessant jabbing of Daniel Sedin’s face and goalie Tim Thomas’ check on Henrik Sedin illustrated.
Aside from strong hits by both teams in Game 5 on Saturday, Kings winger Jeff Carter pulled Devils goalie Martin Brodeur’s jersey over his head during a punch-filled goal-mouth scrum. At the other end, Devils center Adam Henrique got into it with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in his crease not long afterward.
‘‘It was a little chippier,’’ Devils coach Peter DeBoer said.
If it was rooted in frustration, it was only true for the Kings. They’ve blown quality scoring chances and two consecutive opportunities to wrap up the Cup.
‘‘I’m pissed off,’’ Kings winger Justin Williams told reporters after Game 5. ‘‘A lot of guys in that room are pissed off.’’
And the Devils know it.
‘‘Right now, we’re able to pull two tight games on our side, like they did in Games 1 and 2,’’ Brodeur said. ‘‘They’re so close to winning the Stanley Cup that I’m sure it’s getting to them a little bit, to be able to have all these chances and not capitalize on them. We’re looking to just stay alive.’’
The Devils became only the third team — and the first since 1945 — to trail 3-0 in the finals and force a Game 6. They did it with Brodeur’s play and with a relentless approach to breaking up every chance the Kings had.
‘‘We feel good,’’ Devils captain Zach Parise said. ‘‘We’re back in this thing now. We’re making it a series. We’re making it interesting. Now our focus is going to shift to getting one out there and bringing this back home.’’
For the Kings, who lost their first road game of the playoffs in Game 5, it’s about settling down and ending things in Los Angeles. As much as Kings coach Darryl Sutter wants to sidestep the topic, the pressure is on them. This is their longest series of the postseason.
It wasn’t long ago that all the talk seemingly was focused on the Kings’ dominance and their unblemished road record in the playoffs. Now it’s on how the Devils are 10-1 in Games 4 through 7 this postseason.
Maybe some hate will help the Kings right now.