The Game Winning Goal by Anze Kopitar, scored 8:13 into the first overtime period, the result of beating New Jersey Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur with a quick wrister gave the Los Angeles Kings a 2-1 win over the home standing Devils in Game One of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. The win gives the Kings a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series with Game Two coming up on Saturday (6/2) evening. The win also gives the Kings nine consecutive wins on the road in these playoffs as with each passing game they are giving the impression of being the team of ultimate destiny. Jonathan Quick, looking more like a Vezina winning candidate with each game made 16 saves in his first ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance. The opening game of this years Stanley Cup Finals was a grind it out style game that may be an indication of how this championship series could play out. In addition, the Kings with the win are also three for three in overtime games this post season.
SCF Game One Recap- The Kings got on the board in the first period getting a goal from a most unlikely source, Colin Fraser. Scoring just two goals in 67 regular season contests and none in the playoffs up until this point, it was Fraser who would fire a quick wrister past Brodeur about 10 minutes into the opening period to give LA a one goal lead. Fraser’s wrist shot came from a perfect behind the net feed pass from Jordan Nolan, who effectively forechecked Andy Greene off of the puck before finding Fraser alone in the slot. After the Kings scored on just their second shot of the game, Brodeur would become a very tough customer the rest of the way and LA would have a tough time solving Brodeur who made 23 saves on the evening.
The Defenses (and Goalies) Do Not Rest- Kings net minder Quick meanwhile would see a fair amount of action later in the period though just facing five shots on goal from the Devils. Quick would turn away shots on goal from Travis Zajac and Marek Zidlicky during a New Jersey power play. The Devils defensively also tightened up and allowed the Kings just one shot on goal from Kopitar in the final seven minutes of the first period. The second period would also be a defensive battle with the Kings being the dominant team on the ice, holding the Devils to just three shots on goal for the period. Each team would get a power play opportunity but could do little with them as the Kings and Devils both displayed effective penalty kills. Brodeur would do his part to keep New Jersey in the game with nine saves in the second frame.
Pinball With The Puck- Late in the period, Anton Volchenkov would find a way to get the Devils on the scoreboard as he threw a loose puck in the Kings defensive zone towards the LA goal. The puck would defect off of the Kings’ Slava Voynov and bounce into the net past Quick to tie the game at 1-1 with just 1:12 remaining in the second stanza. With this goal the Devils would gain the games momentum and carry it over into the third period as they tied LA despite being out shot 9-3 for the period. New Jersey would bring more pucks Quick’s way in the third period, however Quick was ready and made seven saves but also needed some luck along the way. Early in the period the Devils created some chaos around the Kings net as Quick would have a hard time settling a puck during a scrum. The chaos started as Devils’ Captain Zach Parise tried to follow up a wrister that Quick could not control. Several Devils and Kings players crowded around the net. With Parise down and the puck in front of him, he tried to go Blake Griffin and stuffed the puck into net with his left hand. After further review from the NHL’s war room in Toronto, the goal was correctly disallowed.
Opportunities Missed- Later in the period the Devils missed another chance to take the lead as Mark Fayne missed the most open net he may ever see. With Quick down stopping the initial shot from Ryan Carter, the puck deflected freely to the stick of Fayne. However, Fayne’s shot attempt would miss the empty net wide right and the Kings effectively dodged another bullet. Meanwhile the Kings would get some chances in the third period both early and late. Brodeur however was up to the challenge himself as the veteran net minder made point plank saves on Nolan and later Drew Doughty with a pad stack of a point blank shot in the waning moments of the period. Though New Jersey would carry much of the play until late in the period, the game would still make it’s way to an overtime period which this post season has seen on more than one occasion.
King Kopitar- The overtime period was largely more of a defensive struggle as neither team mounted too much in the way of any offensive dominance. The game would be decided with the Kings forcing the Devils to turn over the puck in the LA’s defensive zone. Doughty would get ahold of a loose puck and pass it out towards center ice where Justin Williams was waiting for it. While this was going on, Kopitar reading the play was also surprising left alone by the Devils as he started to skate up ice. Johnson seeing Kopitar would send a back handed cross ice feed pass that hit Kopitar’s stick perfectly on the tape. From there it was Kopitar versus Brodeur. Kopitar would get the veteran goalie to commit to his left before moving the puck to his right, and launched the puck over a diving Brodeur into the back of the net. With 8:13 gone in the overtime period, and just in a flash, the Kings had for the fourth time in these playoffs stolen Game One on the road. Koptiar was mobbed by his teammates. Meanwhile the Devils knowing they had just gotten beaten simply and immediately skated off the ice knowing Game Two had just become a “must win” situation.
Next Up: Game Two- The Kings and Devils will go again in Game Two Saturday Night at the Prudential Arena in Newark, NJ. This no doubt will be a challenging match for both teams. The Kings will be looking to once again steal a second game on the road and go home with an insurmountable two game advantage that so far has lead to the downfall of three opponents in Vancouver, St Louis and Phoenix. The Devils meanwhile know they will need to get the second game of this best of seven set to go out west even going into Game’s Three and Four. The Devils have dropped the opener in their previous two series before the Finals, dropping Game One to the Philadelphia Flyers in Round Two, and losing the first game to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the difference here was that in both of those games the Devils were on the road. New Jersey will have it’s work cut out for them Saturday Night, and if they are not successful in Game Two, a return to the Jersey shore for a Game Five could be an unlikely situation. The Kings weathered the Devils best shots in late second and third period onslaughts. This may bode well for the LA Kings going forward.
Off The Ice News: Lidstrom To Call It A Career – Hours before the start of Game One of this years Stanley Cup Finals, news spread around the hockey community that NHL stalwart veteran Nicklas Lidstrom would be announcing his retirement in Detroit Thursday Afternoon. The 20 year NHL veteran, now 42 years of age, spent his entire career with the Detroit Red Wings and leaves the game as one of the greatest players the NHL has ever seen. Lidstrom’s resume includes over 1500 NHL games played, four Stanley Cup rings, has played in 12 All-Star Games, named to the NHL’s First Team All-Stars 10 times in 14 seasons between 1998 and 2011. In addition, Lidstrom also has an Olympic Gold Medal, Conn Smythe Trophy, Seven Norris Trophies, scored 264 goals and has 1,142 career points. Lidstrom retires as the Red Wings team captain (meaning likely that either Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterburg will be the next Red Wings Captain). Lidstrom led by example and as documented on a recent NHL 36, is one of the more regimented players to come along in some time. Lidstrom should be an easy first ballot Hall of Fame candidate. A great career and a class act, Nicklas Lidstrom.
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