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Cullen: Devils forcing their way back into Cup Final

Scott Cullen
6/10/2012 12:12:34 AM
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The New Jersey Devils won Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final, 2-1 on home ice, forcing the series back to Los Angeles for Game Six.

After managing just two goals total in the first three games of the series, the Devils have beaten Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick four times in the last two games. While that's hardly an offensive explosion, it has been enough to keep the Devils alive.

Quick caused some of his own troubles in Game Five, with his misplay leading directly to the Devils' first goal by Zach Parise. It was Parise's first point of the Final series.

Los Angeles tied the game early in the second period, as Justin Williams beat Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur with a snapshot off the rush. Williams was the Kings' most dangerous performer, registering three shots on goal and have a few other high quality chances that didn't yield a red light.

For his part, Brodeur was very good, stopping 25 of 26 shots, and a little lucky, benefitting from at least three pucks off the posts of his net.

New Jersey's game-winner goes was credited to Bryce Salvador, playoff scoring hero, as his wrist shot from the point deflected off Vyacheslav Voynov's shoulder past Quick. Salvador, absurdly, has 14 points in the playoffs (after nine in the regular season), which has him tied with Drew Doughty for most among defencemen in the postseason.

Dwight King led Kings with four shots on goal while Travis Zajac led the Devils with five shots on goal.

Ilya Kovalchuk, who has struggled throughout the series (amid suspicion that he's hurt), was held to one shot on goal. His 18:34 of ice time was his lowest in a game this season, naturally including the playoffs.

In his second game of the playoffs, Devils defenceman Henrik Tallinder was impressive once again. He and partner Marek Zidlicky frequently got the better of the matchup against the Kings' line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner.

While that matchup worked in favour of the Devils, they weren't as successful with Andy Greene and Mark Fayne taking on the Kings' top line of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams along with either Dustin Brown or Simon Gagne. Brown, who had been a staple on Los Angeles' first line, yielded his spot to Gagne late in the third period, but the Kings still couldn't find the equalizer.

The Kings return home and still have the advantage in the series, needing to win just one of the next two games to win the Cup, but now the New Jersey Devils have hope. The Devils will be underdogs in Game Six, but all they need to do is pull off an upset on the road -- something they already did in Game Four -- to force Game Seven.

Clawing back from a three-games-to-none deficit is so unlikely, so improbable, that it's hard to take a playoff series seriously once one team has fallen behind to that degree. But, considering that the Kings have a couple of overtime wins in their favour in this series -- games that could have gone either way -- and the Devils have now put together back-to-back wins, there is reason for the Devils to be hopeful. They're still underdogs, but they have a chance.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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