Adam Henrique scored with 4:31 remaining in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and the New Jersey Devils went on to win Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final, 3-1, forcing the series back to New Jersey for Game Five.
With the Devils facing elimination and the Kings poised to win the Cup, there was tension that manifested itself in a rather tight affair, with both teams combining for 25 shots on goal through the first 40 minutes.
Patrik Elias, the Devils veteran who has been struggling throughout the playoffs (scoring seven points in 21 games prior to Game Four), got New Jersey on the board when he backhanded in a rebound of a Bryce Salvador point shot.
Salvador picked up two points in the game, giving him 13 points in 22 playoff games. He had nine points in 82 games in the regular season.
Shortly after Elias' goal, Devils winger David Clarkson was called for boarding Kings captain Dustin Brown. It was a little late and caught Brown from behind, but the effect was negligible, so the penalty call seemed questionable.
Questionable or not, the penalty could have proven disastrous because Drew Doughty scored right off the face-off to start the power play, tying the game a minute after New Jersey had taken its first lead of the series.
After nearly wearing the goat horns, however, Clarkson found a streaking Henrique with a cross-ice pass in the offensive zone and Henrique found the top corner of the net, past Jonathan Quick, who couldn't get across his crease in time.
Ilya Kovalchuk rounded out the scoring, putting the puck into the empty net with 20 seconds remaining. Kovalchuk, who continues to get criticized for his lack of production, played 20:28 in Game Four. While that seems like a lot, it's actually a further indication that he's playing hurt. Kovalchuk played more than 25 minutes in six of seven games against Florida in Round One, but he's played 22 minutes or less in seven of the last nine games.
New Jersey's Zach Parise is still looking for his first point of the series, despite recording four more shots on goal, giving him a series-high 15 through four games. At the same time, Parise and Salvador, who each had five hits in Game Four, were the Devils saddled with the worst Corsi of the night (minus-13 apiece, per www.timeonice.com).
Dainius Zubrus, who controlled the puck down low on the Devils' first goal, had a game-high seven hits.
For the Kings, Game Three overtime hero Jeff Carter (along with defenceman Willie Mitchell) was on the ice for all three goals against.
The Devils had to be thrilled with their work against the Kings' number one line, holding Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams without a shot on goal. The defence pairing that saw them most was Marek Zidlicky and Henrik Tallinder. Tallinder played in his first game since January 17, sidelined after suffering a blood clot in his leg, and he logged 19:21 of ice time.
New Jersey's other lineup insertion, winger Petr Sykora, managed one shot on goal (a quality scoring chance snared by Quick) and a plus-1 rating in 12:18 of ice time.
The Devils still have a mountain to climb, but at least they have started climbing. If they can somehow beat the Kings, who have yet to lose on the road in these playoffs, in Game Five, then maybe there will be reason to get a little optimistic. Until then, it feels like delaying the inevitable.
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.