newjerseydevils.com – Back home after splitting two games in Carolina, the Devils can retake the lead in their best-of-seven series when they host the Hurricanes tonight in Newark (7:30 p.m., MSG Plus, WFAN 660 AM).
Even at two games apiece, the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal returns to Prudential Center, which has been proven to be a tough environment for visiting teams.
The Devils were 28-12-1 at the Rock during the regular season, thanks in large part to Martin Brodeur's outstanding 12-3-1 record and 1.98 goals-against average on home ice.
Brodeur has continued to thrive there in the postseason, having allowed just two regulation goals in the series on home ice. New Jersey triumphed 4-1 in the opener before Tim Gleason's overtime winner gave Carolina a 2-1 decision in Game 2.
"That's what we work for over 82 games," said left wing Patrik Elias. "You try to get into the playoffs, first of all, then try to get home ice advantage. Hopefully that plays into our hands and we'll feed off our fans (tonight). At the same time, we just have to use that energy and excitement the right way and not get out of position because we're excited."
Tuesday's Game 4 in Raleigh offered a dramatic turn in the series, courtesy of a Devils rally and a buzzer-beater by Jussi Jokinen. After falling behind 3-0 in the second period, the Devils scored three straight times in a 10-minute span and tied the Hurricanes in the third.
Brian Gionta notched his second goal in as many games before Brendan Shanahan and David Clarkson each got his first of the series. New Jersey was outplayed through the first 39 minutes, but controlled the pace from then on.
"It was a great feeling in the locker room after we scored that goal late in the second," Brodeur said. "We believed that we were going to come back. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that we were going to come back (in Game 4). It's a good sign for a hockey team."
With time ticking down in regulation, Jokinen's redirection with 0.2 seconds left on the clock gave the Hurricanes a 4-3 win and set the stage for tonight's Game 5.
Brodeur, who said he was bumped on the Hurricanes last two goals, insisted the Devils are taking the positives out of Game 4.
"We learned a lot from the game," Brodeur said. "We didn't play well for two periods and played really well in the third and were able to get back in the game. When we play a certain way we dominate that team. That's what we need to focus on."
New Jersey snapped a six-game postseason losing streak at RBC Center when Travis Zajac's overtime goal decided Game 3 on Sunday. Now, the Devils are eager to be back on home ice, where they have outshot the Hurricanes 73-51 through two meetings.
The clubs have alternated wins over the course of what has been a hard-fought, evenly-matched series.
"We showed a lot of character coming back," Brodeur said of the Game 4 rally. "It would've been easy just to say, well alright, let's move on to Game 5. But we tried – we tried really hard. We showed them something: that we're going to go for it."
Elias feels the Devils must take what they learned in Tuesday's loss and use it going forward.
"For the first half (of Game 4), we were standing still too much, and on the forecheck we were a step behind," Elias said. "Maybe we didn't put the puck into a position where we could get physical, or maybe we didn't make good passes coming up the ice.
"They also made a couple of adjustments – one was in their zone. They cut off our cycles, and that way we couldn't sustain any pressure there. It took us a while to adjust to that. But that's what it's all about in the playoffs. You watch video and try to adjust."
Shanahan has said all winning teams go through adversity over the course of a season, but hesitated to say Game 4 represented a bump in the road for Jersey's Team.
"(Tuesday's) loss is really just like an overtime loss," Shanahan said. "It's the playoffs. You're going to win some and lose some. You have to have a short memory. You have to remember that yesterday's highs and lows don't mean anything. You hope and expect that a team with playoff experience comes out and plays like that in the follow-up game. There's really no time to dwell on things."
Zach Parise leads the Devils with five points in the series (3g-2a), though he had his three-game goal streak snapped Tuesday. New Jersey's top scorer wants to see them stick with what has worked so far.
"The way we've played throughout this whole series, I don't think there's much that we need to do differently," Parise said. "You run into a desperate team that's down 2-1 (in the series) and playing on home ice. They jumped on us early and we found ourselves a little too deep to come back. But I don't think there's much we need to change. We're playing fine."