New Jersey Devils centre Adam Henrique carved out yet another huge moment in his fairytale rookie season by scoring the winning goal on Wednesday to keep his team alive in the Stanley Cup final.
The 22-year-old struck with 4.29 left in Game Four, snapping a wrist shot over the blocker side of Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick before the Devils ended the night with a 3-1 win to force a fifth game in the best-of-seven series.
A third-round pick by the Devils, Henrique scored following a slick pass from David Clarkson, once again earning fulsome praise from Devils coach Peter DeBoer.
“That was a big-time play,” DeBoer told reporters after his team had trimmed the Kings’ series lead to 3-1. “Off a skate, a quick shot up top.
“Especially with the way Quick has been playing, that was a goal-scorer’s play. Adam’s got a knack for that.”
The ever-reliable Quick had yielded just two goals through the first three games of the finals for a remarkable .950 save percentage, and Henrique was ecstatic after scoring his third goal of the playoffs.
“It’s fun,” said Henrique, who has notched two overtime-winning goals, including one that clinched the Devils’ berth in the finals. “This is where every kid dreams of playing one day.
“Clarky (Clarkson) turned it over right away... made a great play across the ice. It seemed to come off my skate pretty nice. I knew he (Quick) was going to have to come a long way to make the save if I was going to get up short-sided.”
Asked to explain his uncanny ability to come up with big goals, Henrique replied: “Everybody wants to be out there in those situations. You want to be counted on by your team mates, your coaches.
“It’s nice that they have that trust in me to put me out there in those certain times of the game. I’m not thinking about what’s going to happen if I score, if I don’t score. I’m just a kid playing hockey, having some fun.”
Now that the Devils have shifted the series back to New Jersey for Saturday’s Game Five, Henrique is well aware that he and his team mates have to keep Quick under sustained pressure.
“We just got to keep getting pucks to the net, keep getting traffic in front of him, make it tough for him to see the puck,” he said.
“Try to find a way to get an ugly one, find those rebounds, however it may be. We got to find a little extra push to get those first ones.
“We know it’s going to be a tough ask to come back (in the series). We’ll take it one game at a time,” added Henrique who led all rookie players in assists (35) and shorthanded goals (4) during the regular season.