In the days leading up to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Devils and Kings, much was made of the matchup in net between New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick.
The battle was touted as a clash between the league’s aging old guard, the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer Brodeur, and its newest goaltending sensation, the 26-year-old Quick, and on Wednesday, both netminders lived up to their billing as two of the best in hockey.
Quick and Brodeur matched each other blow for blow throughout the physical affair, each making his share of acrobatic saves in a game that featured more good looks at the net than the score sheet might suggest. But it was Quick who emerged victorious, making 17 stops in the Kings’ 2-1 overtime win.
It was the 11th straight road win in the playoffs for Quick, moving him past former Islanders goalie Billy Smith for the longest such streak in NHL history, but for most of Game 1, Quick observed from afar as the Devils struggled to get shots on net.
The 17 stops were Quick’s fewest in a playoff game this postseason, but what matters this time of year isn’t how many pucks you stop, but whether you stop the ones that find you, and Quick, as he has been all season long, was unflappable.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this game, seeing as we haven’t played them in so long,” Quick said. “Watching Ranger games, (New Jersey) had anywhere between 40 shots and 20 shots against (goalie Henrik) Lundqvist. I was just going shift by shift. If the team needed me, I just wanted to make the save.”
Quick needed to make only five first-period saves Wednesday, and New Jersey went nearly three-quarters of the second period without so much as a shot on net. When the Devils did get clean looks, like Dainius Zuburus’ laser from the left circle with 4:28 left in the second, Quick deftly knocked them away, and the only puck that got by him was a fluke.
With 1:12 left in the second, Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov tied the score at 1-1, getting credit for a goal after his shot from Quick’s right side deflected off the goalie’s left blocker, then off the chest of L.A. defenseman Slava Voynov, who was covering left winger Patrik Elias, and into the net.
“It’s a bounce; that’s part of the game,” Quick said. “I felt like I played it the right way. I was trying to get it into the corner or over the glass and get a whistle. The way I directed it, it ended up, I don’t know who it hit, but it hit somebody, then it ended up in the back of the net.”
Though he fell victim to Voynov’s unfortunate deflection, Quick also was the beneficiary of some bad breaks for the Devils. New Jersey forward David Clarkson misfired on two shots at an open Kings net in the first period, one off of a rebound following a Bryce Salvador miss.
The misses spoiled two golden, and rare, opportunities to get a puck past Quick, whose microscopic 1.54 goals-against average through the first three rounds was tops. Bad luck struck again in the third as an apparent goal by Devils captain Zach Parise was disallowed with 16:02 left after replay showed that he had pushed the puck over the goal line with his hand.
Then, with just over 10 minutes left to play, New Jersey defenseman Mark Fayne was unable to corral a bouncing puck and missed a shot wide of yet another open Kings net.
At the other end of the ice, Brodeur took the loss, but it wasn’t due to lack of effort or a shortage of the type of breathtaking stops fans have come to expect from the 19-year Devils veteran.
Brodeur stopped 23 of the 25 shots he saw in his 200th career playoff game, but he came up empty on the one that mattered most, a slick move by Anze Kopitar on a breakaway to end the game.
On the game-winning goal, Kopitar made a move to his forehand, fooling the sprawled-out Brodeur who later said he expected the 24-year-old center to go backhand instead.
"It feels great," Kopitar said. "Every time you get the chance to finish it off in OT, you know, to face a world class goaltender like Marty is, it’s definitely a good feeling."
Game 1 featured the amazing effort that was expected from both goaltenders, and it’s expected to continue in Game 2 on Saturday.
"That’s what both goalies are here for, right?” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “It’s not one ahead of the other or anything different. They’re going to have to make big saves and keep it low scoring."
Said Quick: “I’m not looking to match him step for step. I’m not trying to score on him; he’s not trying to score on me. I’ll leave that to the forwards and D. I’m trying to make saves and help my team win a game.”