Devils on the brink of elimination

Both the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings endured long plane flights Thursday as the Stanley Cup finals shifted back to the East Coast from the West Coast for Saturday’s Game 5.

The Devils knew going into Game 4 on Wednesday night that they would have to make this trip. The only question was whether they were returning home to play again or to clean out their lockers.

The Kings were hoping their airplane days were finished. But instead of making plans for a parade, they were left to try to figure out what went wrong and what they will have to do to get the elusive fourth win of the series and claim the Stanley Cup for the first time in team history.

“It’s dissipating quickly,” forward Dustin Penner said of Wednesday night’s disappointment, “especially when we get back to work (Friday).”

New Jersey staved off elimination and forced a Game 5 at the Prudential Center on Saturday night. The Devils would gladly hop on another cross-country flight to play again in L.A. if they can keep their season going again.

The Kings have other ideas.

“It’s human nature, the position we were in, to think about winning the game in front of our home crowd,” Penner said. “I don’t think that affected our effort or our compete level. When you play a game with two teams that are both trying to win, and you have guys on each side that hate losing and they are here for a reason, sometimes you’re not going to win every game you play.”

Only one team has erased an 0-3 deficit in the Stanley Cup finals to win. The Devils are one win into a comeback they hope has three more chapters to write.

“It’s hard not to get frustrated, down 0-3, that’s just human nature,” Devils forward Travis Zajac said. “We have done a pretty good job of keeping an even keel all the playoffs, sticking with our system, our structure. I think that’s what’s made us successful. We just knew that if we stuck with it, you know, at some time, we would get our chance and hopefully some momentum would shift our way.”

BETTER WITH AGE?: After Martin Brodeur helped to extend the New Jersey Devils’ season with a 21-save effort in a 3-1 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night, the 40-year-old goalie’s performance was described in some circles as vintage.

Brodeur has played well throughout the Stanley Cup finals against Los Angeles, but the lack of offense by his teammates has left Brodeur and the Devils upstaged by the Kings and his counterpart Jonathan Quick.

When the Kings returned to New Jersey on Thursday night to prepare for Saturday’s Game 5, forward Dustin Penner was asked if he agreed that Brodeur had risen to “vintage” status.

“Is that a shot at his age using the word vintage?” Penner asked with a smile. “He has been playing great the whole playoffs, against us, his whole career. We know what to expect. It was just one of those games where they got a couple of pucks to go past Quickie, and we couldn’t do it.”

BANGED-UP CAPTAIN: Devils captain Zach Parise was seen wincing on the bench Wednesday night after he appeared to injure an ankle.

He gutted it out the rest of the way, and New Jersey held off the Kings for a 3-1 victory that forced a Game 5 back at the Devils’ home on Saturday night.

Upon returning home, Parise was asked on Thursday how his ankle was feeling following the long flight from Los Angeles.

“Fine,” Parise said without offering any other details.

So the natural follow-up question was, “Would you tell us if it wasn’t?”

Without missing a beat, Parise was again short and to the point.

“No,” he said.

From there, Parise went back to answering hockey questions, and his responses were much more in depth.

While there wasn’t a whole lot of new ground being broken on the information scale, one change for the Devils was quite evident.

Adam Henrique, who scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period of Game 4, sported a different look: a mustache, without the accompanying playoff beard.

“Well, we were down, 3-0,” the rookie forward said. “I had done it before as a junior, and it’s worked before so why not try it again?”

He has had a knack for scoring clutch goals in the playoffs, including the series clincher against the New York Rangers when Henrique scored in overtime of Game 6 to end the Eastern Conference finals.

Those kinds of dramatics also date to his days as a junior.

“Whatever the situation is, try to take it game-by-game and do whatever I need to do, score a goal, kill a penalty, whatever it is,” he said.

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