The Los Angeles Kings are headed back to Hollywood, and the Stanley Cup is so close they don’t even want to think about it.
Jeff Carter scored at 13:42 in overtime and the Kings moved within two wins of their first NHL title with a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of the finals on Saturday night.
”I think we have to reset, refocus,” said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who scored one of the goals of the entire postseason with an end-to-end rush. ”We have to go back to L.A. as if the series is just starting. We have home-ice advantage and have to take the first two at home.
”We’re happy that we got the first two. But going home on the plane tonight, we’re trying to forget about those games. We’re going to learn what we did right and wrong. But going back home, it’s a whole new series.”
Not really. Two more wins by Los Angeles and the NHL season is over.
The Devils face the daunting task of trying to win four of five against a team that is 14-2 in the postseason.
”They are a great team, but it’s not like we got blown out the last two games,” Devils captain Zach Parise said. ”It will be really hard but we will give it our best shot.”
The Devils played well in Game 2. But just like in Game 1, the Kings were a little better as Jonathan Quick made 32 saves to help Los Angeles earn its 10th consecutive road win this postseason, and its 12th in a row over the last two seasons. Both are NHL records.
”Yeah, it’s tough.” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. ”But, you know, you can’t feel sorry for yourself. We played a much better game. I knew we would respond. We did it the right way. You know, came up one goal short.”
Meanwhile, L.A. is beginning to dream about a championship finish to its amazing postseason run.
”I think you obviously think about that,” Kings forward Dustin Penner said of the title. ”Like now, we may get a little nostalgic and think, you know, two more wins and we make history. When it comes to Monday and Wednesday night, we won’t be thinking that way. We’ll be just thinking that game, that shift, that period, the next goal. That’s how we’ve done it all playoffs.”
New Jersey had won eight of 10 games in beating the Flyers and Rangers in the last two rounds in the Eastern Conference. Now the Devils are in desperate need of a victory in Game 3 at the Staples Center on Monday night.
”I thought we played well today,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. ”We have to play better because we didn’t win.”
This marked the first time in 61 years that Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup finals were decided in overtime. The last occasion was the epic 1951 Stanley Cup matchup, where all five games between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens went to extra time. The Maple Leafs captured the Cup.
Carter ended this one with a great individual effort after the Kings outshot New Jersey 11-3 in OT, and only Brodeur kept the Devils in the game.
”It’s a pretty special moment, ” said Carter, who was acquired from Columbus midseason. ”I think, obviously, any time you get a chance to play in the final, it’s exciting. But scoring an overtime goal Game 2, puts you up 2-0, it’s pretty special.”
One of a handful of former Philadelphia Flyers playing for the Kings, Carter corralled a rebound from behind the net, preventing the Devils from grabbing a much-needed line change. He rolled around into the slot, from Brodeur’s right-hand side, and let a wrist shot off that beat the standout goaltender along the ice on his stick side with Penner in front of the net as a screen, left unguarded.
”I wasn’t scouting Marty at the time,” Penner said. ”I was just trying to get to the front of the net, and whenever a right or left shot is wheeling around the top of the circle, and shoots across the grain, it’s got a pretty good chance of going in if there is traffic in front.”
It was Carter’s fifth of the postseason and it gave the Kings another big advantage in a series. The eighth-seeded Kings opened 3-0 leads in each of the first three rounds in the Western Conference.
That could come on Monday, when Game 3 is held in Los Angeles.
”Playoff hockey, you put it on the net as much as you can,” Carter said. ”It’s usually a cheesy goal. But Penns did a great job of getting right in front of Marty there. To be honest, I don’t even know if he saw around Penns, or if he saw the shot.”
When it was over, the Kings all gathered around Carter just off the Brodeur’s left in the faceoff circle. For the second time in as many games, Brodeur looked up to the sky, picked himself up, and skated off an overtime loser at home. He said he had trouble seeing the final shot.
The Devils’ best OT chance came when Quick stopped a blast by Ilya Kovalchuk in the opening minutes. The Russian nearly won the game in the closing seconds of regulation after a turnover set him up in the right circle, but his shot banged off the crossbar after Kings center Anze Kopitar hurried the attempt.
Parise also had a jam shot on the edge of the crease with 4:08 to play and a shot from the left circle that Quick smothered with 90 seconds to go in regulation.
Brodeur also came up big in the third period. He stopped Kopitar, who had the overtime score in Game 1, in close with 10:30 left in the period, and Dwight King from the right circle less than a minute later.
Quick seemed headed for his third shutout of the postseason when the Devils suddenly found a way to beat him early in the third period, just seconds after a Kings flurry in the Devils’ end. Of course, it was the fourth line that stepped up after contributing so much in the series win over the Rangers.
Steve Bernier kept the puck alive in the right corner, and passed to Marek Zidlicky on the point. Zidlicky’s slap shot was tipped by an unguarded Ryan Carter in the slot and it went into the corner of the net behind Quick, who was screened by Stephen Gionta.
Until then, it seemed as if Doughty’s spectacular goal was going to be the game winner. The defenseman picked up the puck between the circles, skated past David Clarkson at the Kings’ blue line and sped through the neutral zone. He avoided a stick check by Carter entering the Devils’ zone and fired a shot between defenseman Bryce Salvador’s legs that beat Brodeur to the corner of the net.
Doughty let out a scream as the puck went in and then skated back to his bench to accept congratulations for his third goal of the postseason.
The Devils had the better of the play in the first period, thanks in part to better forechecking and two power plays. But Doughty’s end-to-end rush and Quick’s goaltending had Los Angeles ahead 1-0.
Quick’s best saves came on a tip in front by Dainius Zubrus with just under eight minutes left in the period and a follow-up rebound by Parise.
The goaltender also seemed to make a skate save on a blast from the left circle by Kovalchuk on a power play, but the Russian was not given a shot in the box score.
Playing in his 200th postseason game, Brodeur faced six shots in the opening period but several were quality chances. The 40-year-old stoned Mike Richards on his doorstep with 6:45 left in the period and got him again late in the second after Penner set up the former Flyer in the left circle.
Brodeur also had snapping glove saves on Justin Williams and Colin Fraser in keep the Devils in the game.
NOTES: Brodeur is the 20th NHL player to appear in 200 postseason games and just the second goaltender. Patrick Roy played in 247 contests. … The Kings have scored first in six of their 10 road games in the postseason. … Kings D Willie Mitchell hit Clarkson in the face with his stick after fanning on a shot. Clarkson was stunned, but didn’t seem to bleed. …This was the 49th one-goal game of the playoffs, two shy of the NHL record set in 2007.