The Los Angeles Kings jumped out to a 1-0 series lead on Wednesday night in Newark, when Anze Kopitar beat Martin Brodeur at 8:13 of overtime, for his seventh goal of the playoffs.
The goal, built on an unreal backhand from Justin Williams, saw Kopitar enter the Devils’ zone all alone with room to deke around the most victorious goalie in NHL history. With Dainius Zubrus closing in on Kopitar, he still took the extra second to allow him to shift across the slot, deking around Brodeur, on an abbreviated break out that could have easily ended up in a rushed shot attempt, given the poor ice conditions and a closing defender.
It’ll go down as one of most beautiful, historic goals in Kings history, and rightfully so, but will it sugar coat the entire game for the Kings? Not for the Kings’ personnel, who were adamant that they have to be better in Game 2 and throughout the series, if they want to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Yes, the Kings extended their incredible string of road wins, pushing their record to 9-0 this postseason, but it was surely the most dry game that both teams have played thus far. NHL Network’s Doug Weight called it a game that both teams would claim didn’t deserve to win should they lose, and he was probably right. The Kings held the Devils to just nine shots in the first two periods, and both regulation goals were surprises, via the sudden-sniper Colin Fraser and a gnarley bounce off of the upper body of Slava Voynov in favor of New Jersey. In total, it was a full-on feel-em-out game, with both teams throwing soft jabs and sizing up each other.
The Kings’ incredible forecheck reared it’s head in the third, as the game opened up with a seven minute spell of action without a whistle, in which Martin Brodeur stacked the pads to rob Drew Doughty on a point blank shot and the Kings strung six shots in a row. That came after the Devils opened the period with the first five shots, giving the series the first glimpse of their swarming forecheck. But despite the brief successes of the teams’ forechecks in the third, the game was widely played in the neutral zone.
The game ultimately was a test of who was more ineffective. The Kings had just one shot from the defense, the aforementioned Drew Doughty attempt in the slot, which oddly enough matched the number of shots by Ilya Kovalchuk. Zach Parise tried to score via the slam dunk in a crease scrum, and Jarret Stoll took a trademark clumsy penalty in the neutral zone. It was just one of those games that both teams would ideally like to forget.
But despite all of the feeling out between the two teams, it’s more of a sign a great series brewing, than a snooze-fest starting to metastasize. Neither team made the other look overly inferior, and neither Jonathan Quick or Marty Brodeur made a mistake. We may have just one game in the books so far, and an ugly grind-em-out game at that, but you have to get the sense that this could be a long, slugfest series.