NEWARK, N.J. – The Devils believe they can pull off the improbable.
Not since the 1942 Leafs has a team rebounded from a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final. But after a belief-quenching 3-1 victory at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the scrappy bunch from Jersey proclaim that 70 years of history will not deter them from coming back against the highly potent Kings.
“You know it's going to happen again, so why not us,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said firmly of erasing the historic deficit. “You're not going to go 200 years without someone else doing it. It's been long enough, it might as well be us."
Having finally eclipsed Jonathan Quick, if only slightly, with more traffic and precision around the net, the Devils are back home at the Prudential Center sensing a hint of momentum; belief growing after the game four conquest. “That's part of the challenge in playoff hockey and especially in a series like this or any series,” Ryan Carter explained of reacquiring the mental edge, “staying focused because the mental swings and the swings in belief and success and failure come in a moment.
“Getting that one [win] gives us a little bit more belief, a little bit more positive feeling around the locker room. We're hoping to run with it.”
They stared down elimination in round one against the Florida Panthers, only to rally for a triumphant series win. Early deficits against the Flyers and Rangers also did little to halt their momentum. All of that experience bodes well with a daunting task laying in wait.
“It's been building inside the room from the season,” Alex Ponikarovsky said of the Devils mental fortitude. “You develop a little bit more over the course of playoffs for our team. Guys know what to expect of each other and they can rely on each other and play hard and just look across the room and be positive to each other all the time. That's how you create it. It doesn't come with one game or one week, it builds over time.”
Overcoming this mountain will be considerably more difficult than past feats. The Kings are storming through a near-historic playoff run (15-3), are perfect on the road (10-0) and have yet to lose two games in a row this postseason. But while the series would appear one-sided in L.A.'s favour, the collision for the Cup has actually been unfailingly close, save for the second half of a dominant Kings win in game three. The first two tilts in Newark went to overtime – the Kings won both – with Adam Henrique deciding the most recent action in SoCal in the final five minutes of regulation.
“Our guys believe we can win three or four games in a row,” DeBoer said confidently. “We're not done until they tell us we can't play any more.”