Kings grind out Game 1 win
Kopitar scores overtime winner
CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
|Kings forward Anze Kopitar scores the overtime-winner on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., May 30, 2012. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/AFP)
NEWARK - In the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, there was a Prudential Center worker pounding on the boards with a sledgehammer.
Talk about an apt image for this Stanley Cup final.
The New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings hammered each other -- they combined for 79 hits in the game -- before the Kings’ Anze Kopitar ended it eight minutes into overtime on a great deke against Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur for a 2-1 win Wednesday night.
The Devils had a huge breakdown in the neutral zone as defenceman Marek Zidlicky got caught up the ice and Devils Bryce Salvador and Dainius Zubrus both went to cover Kings forward Justin Williams. Williams dished it to Kopitar, who bobbled it for a moment before sweeping into the New Jersey zone all alone.
“It feels great. Every time you get the chance to finish it off in OT and face a world class goaltender like Marty, it’s a good feeling,” said Kopitar, who scored his seventh goal of the playoffs. “I just wanted to make sure I stayed in the middle and it worked out pretty well after that.”
It’s a special moment witnessing overtime of a Cup final game with one of the game’s best talents sweeping in alone in the offensive zoe.
The ice was poor at the Prudential Center -- Kings captain Dustin Brown said it was like playing “in a Russian sauna” -- and Kings defenceman Rob Scuderi said he cringed when Kopitar first got the puck and it bobbled on him.
“It was a little scary at first. It was kind of a wobbly pass and the ice is pretty choppy. We were hoping he would just get it under control,” said Scuderi. “Once he got it under control, you just had that feeling. He’s a special player and he’s done it for us so many times in this post-season, you just had a good feeling. Fortunately we were right.”
Was Scuderi surprised Kopitar went for the deke with the ice as bad as it was?
“Well, Kopy’s got good hands. I probably would have shot it from the blue line just to make sure I got one on net,” said Scuderi. “He’s got great hands and uncanny poise and patience. I’m not surprised he went for the deke.”
With the win, the Kings ran their road record in these playoffs to 9-0.
After a scruffy start -- there were three offsides and three icings in the first three minutes -- the Kings held the edge in play through the first half of the game before the Devils worked their way back into it.
Both teams like to forecheck and that resulted in the opening goal by the Kings’ fourth line. Los Angeles forward Colin Fraser converted a feed from winger Jordan Nolan, who had taken the puck from Devils defenceman Andy Greene at 9:56.
The goal was Fraser’s first of the playoffs as he became the 16th Kings player to score this post-season. That’s some depth.
The Kings did a great job of keeping the Devils away from goaltender Jonathan Quick for the first half of the game. New Jersey had just five shots in the first period and didn’t get a shot on goal in the second until the 14:30 mark when they were shorthanded.
The Devils tied it on what was credited as their fourth shot of the period, but it actually bounced in off Kings defenceman Slava Voynov, who was jostling with Devils forward Patrik Elias in front of the net. The shot was taken by Devils defenceman Anton Volchenkov with just over a minute left in the frame.
Volchenkov saves his playoff goals for the big games. The goal was his first since Game 3 of the 2007 Stanley Cup final when he was with the Ottawa Senators.
It was a hard-nosed start to a series that looks like it has the potential to be long and tough.
Better keep that sledgehammer handy.