- Last Updated: 8:53 AM, June 5, 2012
- Posted: 1:49 AM, June 5, 2012
LOS ANGELES — See, here’s the thing: If the Devils truly believe they worked to maximum effort last night, if they believe that other for a break or two they could have won this Game 3 that turned out to be a 4-0 rout for the Kings, then they have no hope at all in tomorrow night’s Game 4.
“We played well,” Zach Parise insisted even after the club unraveled into an unrecognizable train wreck over the final 30 minutes. “I can’t sit here and say we played a bad game.”
We’ll give the proud captain the benefit of the doubt that he was merely reciting lines from a script he felt obligated to deliver in the locker room and not speaking from the heart.
Because, seriously, no one could mistake the display of committed hockey for half a game while going 0-for-7 on the power play through 40:30 (and overall) for “playing well.”
The Devils have scored two goals in three games covering 201:25 of the finals, one by defenseman Anton Volchenkov on a carom off a King, one by fourth-liner Ryan Carter. That does not connote “playing well” even under the most liberal of guidelines.
One after another, the Devils insisted that only execution, and not effort, had been the problem. That’s part of the reason that they are now blindfolded, up against the wall, 60 minutes away from hockey execution.
They have been unable to win the extra battle, unable to corral that extra rebound, unable to avoid that critical turnover and unable to create that essential goal for the lead they have never held in the finals.
It is, of course, the ultimate irony to refer to Martin Brodeur as The Lone Ranger, yet that’s exactly what this masked man has been for the team that plays on the other side of the Hudson in this series.
Of all of the Eastern champions’ marquee players, only the Great Brodeur, 40 and perhaps sensing this is his last best hope for a fourth Stanley Cup championship to add to an incomparable resume, has done his fair share.
Ilya Kovalchuk has begun to produce diminishing returns on the ice. Parise, who did have a couple of glorious chances early, has not been able to beat Jonathan Quick. Patrik Elias, who has waited nine years for a shot at a third Cup, has been no factor whatsoever.
Travis Zajac has appeared overmatched. Adam Henrique has slipped. Marek Zidlicky has been far more of a liability than an asset.
The top guns man the power play that has been so dysfunctional in going 0-for-13 including last night’s failed 1:00 five-on-three that produced one shot late in what was a scoreless first period, general manager Lou Lamoriello might want to seek permission from Rangers GM Glen Sather to borrow Blueshirts’ assistant coach Mike Sullivan to run the man-advantage unit tomorrow night.
“It’s no one’s fault,” said David Clarkson. “We’re all trying our hardest.”
Clarkson, who, too, was repeating the party line, had been stoned by Jonathan Quick moments before Alex Martinez scored the first goal at 5:40 on a play that likely should have whistled dead when the puck disappeared until Brodeur’s stick in the crease rather than allowed to continue with Dwight King whacking away.
But even had the goal been disallowed, it would only have been a matter of time before the Devils collapsed under the weight of their own failures when confronted by a Los Angeles team that has become relentless and a goaltender who has surrendered two goals or fewer in 15 games.
Inevitability is most often apparent only in retrospect. But if the Devils believe they came anywhere close to deserving to win last night, if anyone believes they played well or produced the required effort, it is inevitable they will lose Game 4 tomorrow night.Follow @NYPostsports