Kings forward Jeff Carter, center, tries to gain control of the puck in front… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
There were two schools of thought as the Kings and New Jersey Devils made their way east to continue the Stanley Cup Final.
1. The Kings are in good shape. They take a 3-1 series lead back on the road, where they have a 10-0 record during the 2012 playoffs, an NHL record.
Center Anze Kopitar said it was "unfortunate" that the Kings couldn't wrap up the series at home, but, "We feel comfortable on the road."
2. The Devils have the momentum. They pulled off a 3-1 victory in Game 4 on Monday and are headed home, where they were oh-so-close in losing two overtime games to open the series.
Forward Petr Sykora said, "It's 3-1. Now we just go home and win again."
Both seem plausible scenarios. One is going to be wrong. But neither team seemed concerned about returning to the Prudential Center for Game 5 on Saturday.
The Kings have more to gain. They are only a victory away from having a postgame free skate with the Stanley Cup.
They also have more to lose. Another Devils victory means the Kings must win Game 6 in Los Angeles or face returning to New Jersey for a winner-take-all game.
"I think it's a tough situation, you know, for us to be in," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. But, he said, "We pulled it off, one game."
Brodeur said getting three goals — two against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and one empty-netter — will help. The Devils had scored two goals through the first three games.
"We definitely are looking forward to the next game and some of the momentum," Brodeur said. "Finally, we were able to score goals on Quick, not many, but enough to win. Hopefully, that's going to be a good thing for the boys coming home, that we're a little better offensively on home ice."
The Kings were no less confident about playing on foreign ice. The Kings have been on this path already this postseason, eliminating both Vancouver and Phoenix in Game 5 on the road.
"We know the Prudential Center's going to be rocking, just like when we had to go back to Phoenix and play Game 5, go back to Vancouver and play Game 5," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "The arenas are going to be rocking and we'll have to be ready for them. We just don't let any distractions bother us. We go in, we play our game."
Ilya Kovalchuk's empty-net goal Wednesday ended a Stanley Cup Final drought for the Devils' top line. Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac had combined for 21 goals through New Jersey's first 18 playoff games but had been blanked by the Kings.
The three combined for nine shots on goal during the 3-1 Game 4 victory, four by Kovalchuk, who had only five shots through the first three games.
"We are getting good chances; unfortunately, right now, just for whatever reason, it's not going in for us," Parise said. "I think we've been playing fine. We are making plays and we are doing a decent job of spending time in the offensive zone. Of course, you always want to do more of that."
After scoring only six power-play goals in their first 16 playoff games, the Kings have three in the last two games, including Drew Doughty's blue-line dart Wednesday.
"What I liked is our power play moved around pretty good," Williams said. "We had ample opportunities to score and get ourselves a lead. We weren't able to do it. The power play's going well."
Parise appeared to injure his right ankle during Wednesday's game. Asked Thursday how it was, Parise said, "Fine." Asked whether he'd admit it if it wasn't fine, Parise said, "No."
Must-see TV … sort of
Wednesday's game was the most-watched Stanley Cup playoff game on the NBC Sports Network this year, with an average of 2.07 million viewers. But it was down from 2.71 million for last season's Game 4 between Boston and Vancouver.