The Los Angeles Kings road show cruised into Newark and sped away with a 2-1 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, continuing their drive toward a first Stanley Cup.
Anze Kopitar scored eight minutes, 13 seconds into overtime to lift Los Angeles to a ninth straight playoff road win as the Kings drew first blood in the best-of-seven finals series.
Both teams were forced to work overtime on a sweltering night in New Jersey until Kopitar, taking a pass from Justin Williams, broke in alone on Martin Brodeur and calmly flipped the puck under the sprawling Devils netminder.
“Every time you get the chance to finish it off in OT, to face a world class goaltender like Marty Brodeur. it’s definitely a great feeling,” the Slovenia-born Kopitar told reporters.
“I yelled for the puck, he chipped it perfectly right onto my tape. It all happened pretty quick and I was able to finish it off,” he said.
Victory in Game 2 tomorrow would hand the Kings the NHL record for most road victories in a single post-season, but more importantly, it would allow them to take a commanding 2-0 series home to the West Coast.
The Kings have searched in vain for a first Stanley Cup since joining the league in 1967.
“Every time you get on the road, you need a team effort,” Kopitar said. “It showed again tonight. We had four lines going and six D [defensemen] and Jonathan was great in net again for us.”
Game 1 produced little in the way of offensive fireworks in the opening period, with both teams managing just five shots, but it was enough to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead.
Colin Fraser took a feed from Jordan Nolan and slammed a one-timer past Brodeur, who was making his 200th playoff start in the New Jersey net.
“You know, it’s one game, it’s disappointing, I think it was right within our reach,” Brodeur said. “We just have to be a little bit better next game.”
The Devils managed just four shots in the second frame, but one of them was the equalizer, Anton Volchenkov’s slap shot glancing off Slava Voynov past Jonathan Quick with just 72 seconds remaining in the period, to bring the capacity crowd to its feet.
The teams flashed their offensive muscles in the third as the goaltending duel that many had been predicting between the 40-year-old Brodeur and Vezina trophy finalist Quick took center stage.
Both netminders produced sparkling saves to force the contest into overtime.
The showdown between Brodeur, the NHL’s all-time leader in wins and shutouts, and Quick, a leading candidate for the Conn Smythe trophy as the Stanley Cup’s most outstanding player, had been billed as one of the most intriguing subplots of the finals.
However, after Game 1, Quick wasted no time downplaying any thought of a rivalry with the future Hall of Famer, saying he was just focused on doing his job.
“I’m not looking to match him [Brodeur] step-for-step,” Quick said. “I’m not trying to score on him and he’s not trying to score on me. I’m trying to make saves and help my team.”