The mind games have officially begun.
Martin Brodeur sat at the podium in the Prudential Center press conference room following his masterful 25-save performance Saturday night in the Devils’ 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final and suggested that the Kings have become frustrated as the series has progressed.
“I think 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,” Brodeur said.
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In spite of the three-games-to-two series deficit, the Devils have given the impression that they have begun to rent space inside the Kings’ heads. When the topic of clinching the first Cup in franchise history was raised, head coach Darryl Sutter offered protestations to the contrary.
“Are you cheering for the Devils or the Kings? So you’re cheering for the Devils,” Sutter said to a reporter after Game 5. “I’m going to say the pressure is on them because they’re the home team [in the series] and they had a hundred-some points [in the regular season].”
The Kings’ frustration manifested itself on the ice in Game 5. They spent the evening complaining to referees Dan O’Halloran and Brad Watson when the Western Conference champions weren’t rolling their eyes or shaking their heads.
The Kings’ bench ridiculed Patrik Elias when the Devils’ center got up slowly after crashing into the end boards early in the first period. Later, goalie Jonathan Quick punched a Devil following a pileup in his crease. Jeff Carter sweatered Brodeur during a third-period scrum in the Devils’ goaltender’s crease.
“I got punched and my jersey got pulled over my head,” Brodeur said of the fracas. “That’s it. Not much more that happened. I couldn’t believe they didn’t call any penalty.”
“If they are [feeling pressure], that will definitely play to our advantage,” Zach Parise said. “I think for the most part we’ve done a pretty good job of not giving them a lot of great opportunities. From an offensive standpoint, that can get frustrating. So maybe that’s the case.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for updates throughout the Stanley Cup final.