Doesn’t seem to matter where or who they play in these playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings just keep winning on the road. Wednesday night in Game One of the Stanley Cup Final, the fans of the New Jersey Devils were the latest victims to leave disappointed as the Kings edged the home side 2-1 in overtime at the Prudential Center. Anze Kopitar buried a breakaway opportunity (started by a sweet feed from Justin Williams) at 8:13 of the first extra session to give the Kings their ninth win away from Staples Center in this postseason, just one off the NHL record.
Kopitar’s winner was an exciting conclusion to a game that, shall we say, started slowly. Both teams, coming off of unusually long rest periods for the playoffs (especially for the Kings), took awhile to get their offense going. Eight minutes into the first period, there were still more combined icing and offside calls than there were shots on goal and the ‘rust’ was evident. David Clarkson air-mailed two early chances on open nets Rusty Olesz-style that would have given the Devils some early momentum on a goaltender that has been dominating these entire playoffs.
And the Kings made New Jersey pay for the misses just before the midway point of the first as Colin Fraser’s quickone-timer beat Martin Brodeur at 9:56. It wasn’t exactly a Howitzer from the point, but it was enough to catch Brodeur by surprise (the feed from Jordan Nolan from the behind the red line following some impressive work on the end boards sure helped).
Los Angeles would dominate the shot chart (9-3) in the second but some vintage Brodeur helped keep the deficit at one before the Devils would get a much needed break. Late in the period, an innocent-looking shot from Anton Volchenkov pinballed off of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov past Jonathan Quick to even things at 1. While the result was fortunate, the Devils had spent the past few minutes before the goal applying the best pressure they had on the Kings net all game long.
Neither team would score in the third despite both teams getting Zach Parise’s best effort to hand the Devils the victory. While laying next to the net (after getting robbed by Quick), the New Jersey captain, gathered the puck in his glove before flinging it into the back of the net. The guys in the striped shirts were on top of it, and quickly disallowed the goal before being backed up by replay. Later, Mark Fayne had the opportunity to give a the Devils a legitimate goal but he, like Clarkson earlier, channeled his inner-Olesz and put a shot wide of an open cage.
If the Devils are looking for a positive from this game, is that Brodeur is showing no signs of fatigue that you would expect a 40 year old goalie to feel this deep into the playoffs as he had an outstanding game despite getting the loss. And if you’re the Kings, just keep doing what you’ve been doing all playoffs long: Use your size and forecheck and know that if you make a mistake, you’ve got a budding start in your own net to take care of anything that comes his way. Game 2 is Saturday night in Newark.
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