Having already ended two series for the Devils in these Stanley Cup playoffs, New Jersey's beyond-his-years rookie, Adam Henrique, took to keeping his team's season alive Wednesday night.
Henrique did what few have done to Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, beating him with 4:31 remaining in the third period to snap a tie game and lead the Devils to a 3-1 Game 4 victory of the Stanley Cup final at a jam-packed Staples Center.
The goal stunned a record crowd of 18,867 into silence. Ilya Kovalchuk then followed with his first goal of the series, a shot into the empty net with 19.1 seconds left that denied the Kings a chance to win their first title in 45 years of existence.
Game 5 is scheduled for Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, where the Kings will take their 3-1 series lead.
"It was big for us," Devils center Travis Zajac said. "We needed something. We needed some momentum and we battled through again today. It took us until the third period to finally score a goal and they came right back, but we stuck with it.
"That's kind of been our mentality all playoffs. We came up with a win, which is big."
The Devils took advantage of a turnover at the Kings' blue line. New Jersey forward David Clarkson shot a cross-ice pass over to Henrique, who settled the puck and then took the shot that gave them new life.
"It certainly came off my skate pretty nice," Henrique said. "Right on the tape. I knew it came all the way across the ice, so I knew he (Quick) was going to have to come a long way to make the save if I was able to get it up short side."
Henrique, who is one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, has just four goals, but three have been clutch.
One came in double overtime of Game 7 to finish off Florida in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Henrique then punched the Devils' ticket to the Cup final with a rebound goal in Game 6 against the New York Rangers.
"He's a heck of a hockey player," Clarkson said. "He's a person where if you see him, no matter what line he plays on, he always does something. Big goals throughout this season. Hopefully he continues to do it."
Ageless Martin Brodeur was steady all night, making 21 saves in a gritty effort against a Kings team that was trying to make history. The Kings came into Game 4 with a 15-2 postseason and were bent on tying the 1988 Edmonton Oilers' rampaging run to the Cup.
Now the Devils have taken one step toward making an improbable comeback from 3-0 down, which has been done in a playoff series only three times in NHL history. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have come all the way back in a Cup final.
"The guys battled hard," Henrique said. "Marty played great. Kept us in it. There's no quit in the group in here. We know we can do it. We can put four together and come back."
Both teams appeared tight for much of the game until the third period. New Jersey finally solved Quick as Patrik Elias pounced on a rare rebound and backhanded it in at the 7:56 mark.
"You try to get guys around him, but their (defense) are doing a good job boxing out and not allowing us to get there," Elias said. "On that one, I think it went through a screen or something and it just popped out.
"That's the little bit of light that we needed."
The lead was the first for the Devils in the series, but it lasted all of 60 seconds. After Clarkson was whistled for boarding, the Kings' Drew Doughty scored four seconds into a power play to tie the contest and rev up an already charged crowd.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer referred to Clarkson's penalty as a "tough call," but he couldn't have been more pleased with his team's response in a dire situation.
"Well, they believe," DeBoer said. "They're in the fight. They've got a lot of pride. Like I said, we've been in adverse spots before where we've played two or three games and haven't got rewarded because of either hot goaltending or we've taken too many penalties.
"We know we've just got to stick with it and it will turn. And it did tonight."
The Devils showed they were game for Game 4. Brodeur steadied his teammates with some strong play while Zach Parise, who has been a no-show in the series, sat in the box after an early tripping penalty.
In addition to three solid stops during the Kings' power play, Brodeur was also the beneficiary of some good luck. Anze Kopitar ripped a shot off the post while Slava Voynov's point shot also caught metal after Justin Williams tipped it.
The Devils appeared energized by their Hall of Fame-bound goaltender, but that did nothing for them at the offensive end, where the running theme of being unable to beat Quick continued.
Quick came into the potential clincher with ridiculously gaudy numbers -- a 15-2 record, 1.36 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.
The stone-faced netminder gobbled up New Jersey's best chance during a power play. Elias carried the puck across the Kings' blue line and slid a nice pass over to Petr Sykora, who got the call from DeBoer in Game 4 in the hope that he could provide some kind of offensive spark.
Sykora, who has two Cups on his resume, teed up a one-timer headed for the right corner that Quick stretched out and nabbed with his glove. It was the highlight of his 11 saves in the first two periods.
Having gotten out of the first 20 minutes unscratched, the Kings applied more pressure in the second, but their execution wasn't up to par as shots continually sailed wide and passes didn't connect the way they had been throughout the postseason.
Simon Gagne brought the crowd to its feet when he charged up ice with an opportunity against Brodeur, whom he's long familiar with from his days in Philadelphia.
Gagne went low with his shot, but Brodeur flashed out his pad for the stop to keep it scoreless. The Kings' forward was playing in his second game after missing 64 games because of a concussion.
Full of jump all night, Gagne broke free once again early in the third and fed Trevor Lewis a picture-perfect saucer pass. As Brodeur charged out and went to stack his pads, Lewis tried to slide the puck underneath but it went wide of the right post.
The failed golden opportunity reflected a night of near misses for the Kings, who now face their first bit of adversity in this year's playoffs.
"We have to bury the chances that we get," Kopitar said. "They seemed like they had chances off the rush and they capitalized on those. We've got to correct some things and get ready again."
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