New York Hockey

Five reasons for optimism
June 7, 2012 12:16:54 PM PDT
By Mike Mazzeo

The Devils aren’t out of the woods just yet.

They trail the Kings 3-1 in the Stanley Cup finals and they’re 0-for-15 on the power play in the series.

Their backs remain against the wall.

Still, there are reasons for optimism heading into Game 5 on Saturday night at the Prudential Center.

ESPNNewYork.com takes a look at five of them.

1. THEY SCORED: Patrik Elias snapped Jonathan Quick’s shutout streak at 138 minutes and 39 seconds, capitalizing on a rebound of Bryce Salvador’s shot for his fifth goal of the playoffs with 12:04 remaining in the third period in Game 4.

2. THEY LED: Prior to Elias’ goal, the Devils hadn’t held a lead in the entire series -- a span of 249 minutes and 51 seconds (68:13 of Game 1, 73:42 of Game 2, 60:00 of Game 3 and 47:56 of Game 4). It may have been short-lived -- Drew Doughty scored 62 seconds later to knot the match at 1 -- but it was a lead nonetheless.

3. KOVY SCORED: Ilya Kovalchuk hasn’t played like a superstar all series, leading to speculation that his back may be bothering him again. Kovalchuk has had his share of chances. He hit the crossbar with 18 seconds left in Game 2. And earlier in Game 4, he couldn’t corral a pass on the doorstep two minutes into the middle frame that would’ve led to a slam dunk.

That’s why the Russian sniper’s empty-net goal that sealed Game 4 was so important. It was his first goal and point of the series -- snapping a three-game scoreless drought. The Devils can only hope two days of rest and finally getting on the board galvanizes Kovalchuk the rest of the way.

4. THEY HAVE 'STACHE-POWER: 22-year-old rookie Adam Henrique scored the game-winning goal in Game 4 with just 4:29 left, taking a David Clarkson cross-ice pass in the left circle and snapping one by Quick high blocker side.

Three of the Calder Trophy finalist’s four goals this postseason have been game winners. Prior to that tally, Henrique hadn’t scored all series, which is why, according to the Bergen Record, he decided to shave and get a mustache that matched fourth-liner Ryan Carter, who had one of the team’s two goals in the first three games.

5. THEY’RE ALIVE: Only six of 26 teams in the finals have forced a Game 5 after going down 3-0 in the series. The Devils are one of those teams, which should give them hope. The 1942 Maple Leafs came all the way back, which should give them even more hope. Seventy years later, why not make it two? The Kings may be 10-0 on the road in the playoffs, but the Devils couldn’t be happier to have a shot to end that streak.

Yes, there is plenty of work to be done. And yes, the odds are stacked against them.

Teams trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven NHL playoff series are 24-229 in the series -- but they’re 51-39 in Game 5 at home.

Just like in Game 4, the Devils can’t win the series in Game 5, but they can extend it.

Tags: New Jersey Devils

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