And now we have a series.
The Devils are headed back to Los Angeles for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.
“We’re going to take it game-by-game,” David Clarkson said after the Devils’ pulsating 2-1 win over the Kings in Game 5 at the Prudential Center Saturday night. The Devils trail the best-of-seven series three games to two. Game 6 is Monday night at the Staples Center.
Bryce Salvador’s goal 9:05 into the second period was the game-winner. It was Salvador’s fourth goal of the playoffs. The defenseman’s 14 playoff points are tied with Travis Zajac for the second most. He finished the regular season with just nine points — all assists.
“Everything he touches seems to go well,” Clarkson said of Salvador. “It’s good to see. What he’s doing has been impressive.”
So was Zach Parise. The captain opened the scoring with a tuck-in of a whiffed Jonathan Quick clearing attempt 12:45 into Game 5. The goal was Parise’s first point since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final.
“We knew he was going to come out with his best game and he did tonight,” Zajac said of Parise, whose eighth goal of the playoff tied him with Ilya Kovalchuk for the team lead. Parise’s goal came on the power play. It was the Devils’ first man-advantage goal in the final. The Devils are 1-for-17 on the power play against the Kings.
“He was all over the ice,” Zajac said. “Obviously he gets us going on the power play.”
Justin Williams drew the Kings even at 1-1 3:26 into the second with his fourth of the playoffs. Matt Greene sprung Williams for the goal with a headman pass from the Kings’ end of the ice that the winger accepted in the neutral zone. Williams carried the puck into the Devils’ end, cut towards the middle of the ice and whipped a wrist shot that beat a screened Martin Brodeur.
Williams’s goal was the lone blemish on yet another spectacular effort from Brodeur, who moved into a sixth-place tie with legendary Islanders’ netminder Billy Smith on the all time Stanley Cup final goaltender wins list with 17. Only Jacques Plante (25), Ken Dryden (24), Turk Broda (21), Terry Sawchuk (19) and Patrick Roy (18) have more wins in the Final.
Brodeur, who finished with 25 saves, will join the sextet in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.
“I wish I was that eloquent that I had more ways to phrase it,” Devils head coach Pete DeBoer said of Brodeur’s performance. “What else can you say? His performance speaks for itself. It’s the timing of it. I think the fact we’re 9-1 or 10-1 in Games 4 through 7 in a series is a testament to how he enjoys that type of pressure.”
Winning teams get rewarded with breaks. Brodeur and the Devils received two breaks last night. Williams hit the right post early in the first. A few minutes after Salvador’s goal, Jarret Stoll had an apparent tying goal disallowed when it was ruled that the Kings center played it with a high stick. Mike Richards stared at the Prudential Center ceiling in disbelief after his one-timer with 8.8 seconds remaining missed the net by a foot.
“You got to finish your opportunities,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said. “You got to work to get [them], you pretty much have to not give up more than one [goal].”
The Devils had spent much of the last week expressing their collective confidence that they could extend the series after falling behind three games to none. But after consecutive wins, Clarkson refused to take the bait when he was asked if the Devils could equal the 1942 Leafs as the only team in NHL history to win the Cup after falling behind the best-of-seven series three games to none.
“We’re taking it one game at a time, like we have since thing started. We’re going to go out there and do our best; do the little things that have [gotten] us to where we are now and play our game,” Clarkson said. “We believe in here.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.