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Devils Face Major Offseason Questions As Stanley Cup Dream Ends

Martin Brodeur (credit: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images), Zach Parise (credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Martin Brodeur (credit: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images), Zach Parise (credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (WFAN/AP) — The Devils’ dreams of a historic comeback were all but dashed less than 11 minutes into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Just 10:10 in, Steve Bernier drilled Los Angeles defenseman Rob Scuderi from behind into the end boards and essentially took his club out of the game. Bernier was given a major penalty and was ejected from the game.

“I didn’t want to hurt my team, I wanted to help them,” Bernier said. “This is extremely hard. It’s been a long playoff run for us. To finish on that note, it’s not fun for sure. But there’s nothing I can do now.”

The Kings took full advantage of the 5-minute power play and scored three times in a span of 3:58 en route to a 6-1 victory that clinched Los Angeles’ first Stanley Cup championship in the franchise’s 45-year history.

“It was just an unfortunate situation with a player who plays the game really hard, and he’s going to have to live with that,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. “I don’t think it’s a fair thing, but that’s what happens when one person has the fate of a hockey game in their hands. I talked to him and told him it’s not his fault. I can’t say if it was a good call or not.”

And now for the second straight season, the Devils will be facing major offseason questions.

A year ago, New Jersey was left to figure out how the club missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Now the Devils will have to face the possibility they will have to replace Brodeur and Zach Parise, who could be on the move as one of the most attractive unrestricted free agents on July 1.

The 27-year-old left wing, who has spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Devils, is coming off a 31-goal season.

“My feelings have always been the same towards this organization and what they’ve done for me, you know, whether we lost in the first round or tonight, I’ll always feel the same way about this place and my teammates,” Parise told WFAN’s Sherry Ross after the game. “So, I mean, everything will work out.”

LISTEN: Parise with Ross

Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history, has hinted that he would like to return next season at age 41.

“This season and this playoff run answered a lot of questions about where my game’s at, and I’m really happy to hopefully continue,” Brodeur said.

If Brodeur and Parise return, the Devils could be poised for another deep playoff run despite playing in the tough Atlantic Division that produced four 100-point teams this season — the last being New Jersey, which was the No. 6 seed in the East.

“We took down our two biggest rivals, the Flyers and the Rangers, and we took this series to six games,” Brodeur said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s been a great season. We came a long way to challenge for the Stanley Cup from not making the playoffs last year.

“There’s only one team that can win. It’s not us this time, but we’re proud of what we’ve done.”

New Jersey was outdone by the Western Conference champions this time, and scored only eight goals in the six games. The Devils dropped a pair of 2-1 overtime decisions at home in the first two games, and fought uphill the rest of the way.

The Devils were whistled for nine penalties that totaled 47 minutes in Game 6, after coming in with an average of just 8.7 in the playoffs — the second-fewest in this postseason.

New Jersey recorded only 18 shots on goalie Jonathan Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Brodeur, who backstopped New Jersey to Cup titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003, made 19 saves in the clincher.

“More than ever I think the playoff run is something magical,” said Brodeur. “The last few years, it’s been tough in the playoffs, we kind of lost that feeling of winning playoffs series, you know that feeling inside of you.

“I got it back this season.”

Do you think both Brodeur and Parise will be back next season? Be heard in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)