Sometimes, sources of playoff inspiration can come from the most unlikely of sources. For the New Jersey Devils, they could turn to the National Basketball Association to start their comeback.
New Jersey is in a similar situation to both the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder. Both teams dropped the first two games of their respective finals series, and faced a bleak outlook. Both teams turned it around to win Game 3, and they've clawed back to tie their respective series.
Both of those teams had the advantage of hosting Game 3. New Jersey, in Los Angeles for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Kings, faces a more difficult challenge in a road arena.
"I think this is going to be an unbelievable atmosphere," Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "We’ve done a good job of not overanalyzing or putting too much pressure on any situation. I think the first two games, we didn’t score the first goal, but we had chances to win. So, I think what we’ve done a good job of this whole playoffs is not getting too high or too low and being prepared for whatever."
The key to both the Celtics and Thunder climbing back into the series was the way they played in Game 3. The Thunder played especially well, delivering a 20-point blowout to the San Antonio Spurs. In a series where the teams were evenly matched, the Thunder eventually got the breaks to go their way, and used that momentum to tie the series.
The Celtics followed a similar script. After losing two games in Miami to the Miami Heat, including one in overtime, Boston played Game 3 like an elimination game. They won by ten points, then held off the Heat in Game 4 to tie the series.
Both series prove the old adage that "it's not over until it's over." They also shared similarities in their style of play. Both teams played Game 3 like a closeout game, swallowing the opposition and dictating play. It's a level of desperation needed to claw back into a series, and one New Jersey needs to bring to the ice tonight.
The situation isn't as dire as many analysts are making it seem. While New Jersey faces a 2-0 deficit, they've been even with the Kings throughout the series. There have been several bounces in those two home games that simply didn't go the Devils way. In Game 1, it was the puck bouncing on Zach Parise, causing him to flub his shot and miss an open net. The same happened to Devils defenseman Mark Fayne and right wing David Clarkson.
In Game 2, Ilya Kovalchuk had a chance to end it with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. His shot beat Jonathan Quick high, but rang off the crossbar.
Those facts are helping the Devils find a silver lining in the deficit.
"We feel good," Devils coach Pete DeBoer told Gulitti. "I know you guys are going to spout out stats that it’s an impossible mountain to climb. We heard the same thing when we were down to Florida 3-2 after Game 5. But that stuff is irrelevant. We really believe we can win a game tomorrow night and if we do, we think it’s a different series."
As the NBA has proved, a 2-0 deficit isn't a death sentence. Maybe it's an indicator of what's to come in these finals. One team fighting for it's life, using Game 3 as the turning point in the series.