The New Jersey Devils lost the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final in overtime. By all accounts they were still very much alive in the series as the scenery shifted to Los Angeles for games 3 and 4 against the Los Angeles Kings. That is until the puck dropped at the Staples Center on Monday Night.
Los Angeles used two second and two third period goals by Alec Martinez, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams to knock the Devils silly and send them to their Stanley Cup death beds. New Jersey trails the best-of-seven series 3-0 and appear to have about as much life as a decaying corpse.
Jonathan Quick was stellar once again stopping all 22 New Jersey shots, many of them dangerous and in close. Quick, as he has been all postseason, was one step ahead of the Devils shooters all night long. Quick earned his third shutout of the playoffs and improved his postseason record to 15-2. He is clearly the odds on favorite to win the Conn Smythe trophy for playoffs most valuable player and has shown the entire hockey world that he is the real deal.
Clearly the Devils have met their match with the Kings. L.A. has made they most of all of their opportunities and have looked like the more poised team and despite all the leadership in the New Jersey locker room they already look defeated and resigned to losing the series.
New Jersey had several chances to breakthrough on Quick and the Kings including a 5 on 3 power play late in the first period. It was easily the Devils best chance to take control of the game. Alas, Marek Zidlicky took a tripping penalty to negate the advantage and essentially took all the wind out of the Devils sails. The Devils managed only a few flurries here and there from that point on, but never fully recovered.
New Jersey went 0 for 6 with the man advantage in the game and fell to 0 for 12 in the series. The power play looked just as atrocious as it did in the first two games. Give the credit to the Kings penalty killing unit. They never let the Devils set up and get comfortable.
Even if the Devils power play was better I doubt it would have made any difference. The Kings were just that good. Throughout the game L.A. appears to have eight or nine guys on the ice. They are everywhere. They get sticks in the passing lanes and they have been pressuring the Devils players relentlessly. The Devils were clearly frustrated and it showed as the game wore on.
Zidlicky had an awful game. The Kings forced him to cough up the puck on several occasions. He finished the game minus-one with four penalty minutes and no shots on net. He was so good earlier in the playoffs. Now he has become a clear defensive liability.
The Devils have never led in the series. They have scored just two goals in three games after leading all NHL playoff teams in goal scoring. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise are trying to make something, anything happen and still nothing. Not even a sniff really.
Even when the Devils found a way to get to the Kings net, Quick was equal to the task. The 26-year-old goalie has been so good. New Jersey has absolutely no answer for him and they won’t find one now. It’s too late because there is zero chance they win one game, let alone four games in a row.
I foresee the Kings finishing this series off with a clean sweep of the Devils, four straight, and celebrate the franchises first Stanley Cup in front of 18,000 plus crazed fans at the Staples Center. It would be a fitting end to this improbable, but quite remarkable run. It will also get L.A. fans minds off the Lakers early playoff exit, if only for a little while.
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