By Steve Silverman
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The proper words will be uttered by Peter DeBoer and his players, but it’s only because they received the script as children.
It’s just a matter of time before the Los Angeles Kings are crowned champions and skate around the ice at the Staples Center – or perhaps the Prudential Center – and celebrate their championship.
The Devils’ words are likely to include references to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 playoffs against the Boston Bruins — or perhaps even the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees — but this series is over. The Devils had a chance in Game 3 to get back in the series after dropping the first two at home in overtime. However, they needed to come out with their best game on the West Coast and take charge early by scoring a goal or two and putting the Kings on their heels.
Instead, the Kings came out like they had their backs against the wall and dominated with a 4-0 victory. No more of the 2-1, close-to-the-vest overtime games. It was about skating with authority, taking the body early and then scoring two timely goals in the second and third periods.
The Kings appeared to be the better team at the start of the series and they were also getting the breaks from the hockey Gods throughout the playoffs. They continued to get the breaks in the first two games in New Jersey, but then became dominant in Game 3. The Kings played the kind of game that the Rangers wanted to play against the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. The forechecking game kept the Devils from breaking out of their own zone with speed, and when that part of a team’s game gets taken away, the chances of putting together a credible attack are nearly non-existent. The Devils got several chances that could have resulted in goals – most notably Travis Zajac getting a clean shot from just outside the goal crease – but Jonathan Quick was not about to let anything get by him.
The Devils played on even terms with the Kings until the 5:40 mark of the second period, when defenseman Alec Martinez scored off a goal-mouth scramble that was made possible by left wing Dwight King’s determination. After getting the puck on the left wall, King fired a shot at Martin Brodeur and kept flailing away at the rebound. After two more jabs by King, Martinez swept the puck into the net. Brodeur was unhappy, saying that a whistle should have stopped the action because the puck was covered up, but that was never the case. The puck remained in plain view throughout the scrum, and that’s why the Kings were off and running.
Just prior to the goal, Quick stopped David Clarkson on a breakaway. In the first period, the Devils failed to score despite having a 5-on-3 advantage. The effort was there throughout the game for the Devils, but they lacked the efficiency and cohesiveness of the Kings.
If the Martinez goal put the Devils on their heels, the second goal by Anze Kopitar buried them. Kopitar finished off a superb rush up the ice by taking a perfect pass from Dustin Brown and firing a wicked shot to the upper portion of the net with less than five minutes left in the second period. Brodeur had no chance to make the save, and neither would any other goalie.
The Kings are now one win away from claiming their first Stanley Cup. A member of the NHL’s first expansion wave in 1967-68, the Kings have regularly been one of the league’s more forgettable teams. One finals appearance in 45 years of existence (44 seasons) hardly makes for a great history. Wayne Gretzky’s arrival in the summer of 1988 gave hockey its biggest boost in Southern California, but the Great One has been gone for many years. He returned to drop the ceremonial puck last night, but the Kings have seemingly been out of the headlines since his departure in 1996, when he was traded to St. Louis for a brief stay prior to finishing his career with buddy Mark Messier and the Rangers.
Now they are nearly on top of the hockey world. They need to take one more step to get there. A very shaky Devils team stands in their way.
The season was one of redemption and guts for the Devils after missing the playoffs a season ago. They have the stomach to win a game and extend the series, but any more than that seems way out of their reach.
Do you think the Devils will manage to squeak out a win or two, or will this series end in four? Sound off with your thoughts and comments in the section below…