A boisterous crowd, decked out in Kings jerseys and 44 years of hopes, expected to see what they'd been seeing: an L.A. victory.
But three 3rd period goals, one by Patrik Elias on a backhand slap, another by Adam Henrique and an empty-netter by Ilya Kovalchuk, killed the party mood at Staples Center.
The Devils won Game Four - 3-1 - to send the Stanley Cup Final back to New Jersey. Game Five is Saturday night, with the Kings still ahead in the series - three games to one.
Until those three goals in the 3rd period Wednesday night, New Jersey had scored only two goals in 11 periods plus two overtime periods in the series.
The Devils' win was sparked largely by expert goaltending by 20-year NHL veteran Martin Brodeur. The 40-year-old goalie, who already has a Stanley Cup title to his credit, batted away repeated breakaway shots by the Kings.
Once he even knocked a puck away not with the blade of his stick, but with the knob.
Game Four was an ugly, grinding, exhausting experience. New Jersey, which played its worst game in Monday's 4-0 Game Three loss, was aggressive and hardworking last night.
But that effort didn't yield success early on. The Devils couldn’t get a shot off on their initial power play in the first period. Their second followed almost immediately and the Devils were more assertive that time, but the Kings killed that one, too.
Near the end of the period, the Kings fired a shot that looked like it went past Devil goalie Martin Brodeur and in. At least, it did to the scorekeeper, who lit the lamp to signal a goal.
But the referees didn’t agree and the players kept on playing.
With less a minute to go in the 1st period, the Devils got whistled for their second penalty of the game. This time, the Kings couldn’t capitalize. Drew Doughty rifled a shot that hit the post and the Devils held off the Kings for the rest of the period.
Throughout the game, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick spun and stretched like a gymnast as he blocked the Devils’ shots. Early in the 2nd period, an errant puck wobbled in the air toward a vacant net until Quick slid back across the goal mouth to knock it away.
The Kings had repeated 2nd period chances to get on the scoreboard. Midway through, a Kings power play ended with no shots on goal. Soon after, a two-on-one break for the Kings looked like the crowning moment, but Brodeur kicked away Simon Gagne’s wrist shot.
The Kings began kept pressing the action into the Devils’ end of the rink. That kept New Jersey away from Quick, and away from any offense at all. For the last 14 minutes of the second period, the Devils couldn’t get off a single shot on goal.
Early in the 3rd period, the Kings had a two-on-one break, but Trevor Lewis couldn't jab a shot past Brodeur. Barely a minute later, Brodeur sprawled across the ice and blocked another Kings shot.
New Jersey turned the action into the Kings' end soon after, and it paid off.
With the Devils on the attack halfway into the 3rd period, Patrik Elias scooped the puck with a backhand move, and slapped it past Quick to give the Devils a 1-0 lead – the first time they’d led in the series.
That advantage lasted barely a minute.
A questionable boarding penalty against New Jersey’s David Clarkson gave the Kings a man advantage. LA won the faceoff, and Drew Doughty slammed a shot past Brodeur to tie the game.
But New Jersey recovered with two more goals, and so the series goes on.