The Los Angeles Kings continued their magical run on Wednesday night, notching a 2-1 Game-1 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Anze Kopitar scored a phenomenal game-winning goal with 11:47 left in overtime in what was the first Game 1 to go into OT during the Finals since 2002.
"From a series standpoint, it's huge to put them behind us, right off the get-go," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "It makes it a little more difficult for them to get back into it if we play our game and do the right things."
Justin Williams provided a great chip pass to Kopitar while on his breakaway for the winning goal. After faking a backhand shot, he dialed up the puck on his forehand, beating a superb Martin Brodeur.
"I wanted to make sure I went to the middle," Kopitar said. "I don't know if he heard me or not, but I yelled for the puck and he chipped it. It was perfect, right on my tape. It happened pretty quick and I was able to finish it off."
Kopitar quickly raised his hands and thrusted himself into the boards following the goal, facing the shocked crowd to Brodeur's right.
"All losses this time of year are really hard to take because your dream is slowly shutting down," Brodeur said. "We lost one game, there's six games left in this series. They need to win three. We need to win four."
"To put it past a goaltender like Marty," Kopitar said, "is a good feeling."
The veteran New Jersey goaltender bleakly skated off the ice as the Kings piled on the hero, Kopitar.
If there is any good news for the Devils it's that they've been here before. This is the third straight series in which New Jersey has lost the first game. Still, they're obviously not content.
"I think it was probably the worst game in the playoffs for us," said Devils leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, who was limited to just one shot. "Maybe we were a little too nervous before the game started, but it's all excuses. We've got to make sure we know what we didn't do right, and be a different team next game."
Colin Fraser scored in the first period for L.A., while the Devils had great opportunities on multiple occasions to take the lead early in the third following Anton Volchenkov's goal in the second period; the biggest blunder coming when defenseman Mark Fayne missed a wide-open net from the edge of the crease. A Zach Parise goal was also waived off with 16:02 left in regulation after replay showed he scooped the puck into the net with his hand.
"We didn't deserve to win tonight, and we didn't," said Devils veteran Patrik Elias, who won Cups with the team in 2000 and '03.
"I think we're going to have to find another level," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We were a little tentative, as was expected for a Stanley Cup final. I think we got better as the game went along, but you have to play 60 minutes against that team.
"We have to be better than we were tonight."
As you may well know, L.A. is the eight seed in the West. But what may surprise you is that they have also won all nine of their road games in the playoffs, which is a new NHL record. The Kings are now just one win away from tying the NHL record for postseason road victories and they are now 13-2 this postseason overall.
While records are nice, all fans truly care about are wins; and L.A. is only three away from their first NHL title since entering the league in 1967-68.
Photo Credit: AP