Stanley Cup finals
Game 5 (Kings lead the series, 3-1)
Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, 5 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Not this time -- The Kings finally came up on the wrong side of a nail-biter this postseason. Heading into Game 4 of this series Wednesday night at Staples Center, they were 6-0 in playoff games decided by one goal, including all four that ventured into overtime. Game 4 was still tied with 4 ½ minutes remaining in the third period, but Adam Henrique scored on a rush and New Jersey sealed the 3-1 victory with an empty-netter in the final seconds. Is that a sign the magic has finally worn off for the Kings? Game 5 should provide an immediate answer to that question.
2. Kings of the road -- L.A. is 10-0 on the road this postseason, a streak that seems a lot more important to the media than the coaches and players. “The only time I think about it is when you bring it up,” coach Darryl Sutter repeated Saturday morning following the team’s morning skate. Except for the second round, when the Kings swept the St. Louis Blues, they’ve followed the same pattern. Win the first two games on the road, split the next two at home and then clinch the series back on the road in Game 5. The Kings may not be mindful of their road record, but the Devils surely are.
3. Put it on ice -- Sutter reminded the gathering of reporters that Saturday was Farmer’s Day in his home province of Alberta. “A big picnic with coolers,” he said. Winning a fourth game against the Devils surely won’t be a picnic. The victory in Game 4 provided New Jersey an ounce of momentum and demonstrated that Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is human after all. For the first time in the series, the Devils actually put a shot past Quick that wasn’t redirected at some point en route to the net. Quick is still the most consistent player for either team, limiting the Devils to two goals or less in all four games.
4. Brown needs to rebound -- Kings captain Dustin Brown doesn’t need anyone to remind him that he hasn’t had much of an impact in the finals. He had at least five points in each of the first three rounds, but has just one assist through the first four games of this series. Brown said the Devils have done a solid job taking away his time and space, a strategy made somewhat easier because he’s playing on his off-wing. “I’ve been pretty quiet in the finals so far and it’s up to our big players to step up at big times,” he said after practice Friday.
5. Devils are due -- After meandering for five straight games without a power-play goal, the Kings broke through with three in the last two games. Now it’s the Devils who are stuck in the mud with the man advantage. They netted 12 power-play goals in their first 18 playoff games but have been shut out thus far in this series. They haven’t gone five straight games without scoring on the power play since November. If the Kings can win the battle of special teams again in Game 5, they have a good chance of wrapping up their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.