The long suffering fans of the Los Angeles Kings are having the dream playoff run they may never want to awaken from. Jeff Carter’s game winning goal 13:42 into the overtime period gave the Kings a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in Game Two of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. In a game that was almost a carbon copy of Game One, Carter’s goal was the result of the Kings’ patients and perseverance which again has paid off big when that time came. For the fourth straight series in these playoffs, the Kings go home with a 2-0 lead in a best of seven series which right now is not looking like it will take anywhere near seven games to complete. The New Jersey Devils have not played poorly by any means and have been in each game. The Devils arguably have stayed with the Kings probably better than anyone. However, even their best here may not be good enough as the Kings are taking full advantage of a date with destiny that may very well be fulfilled before the end of this next week.
Jonathan Quick was again on top of his game with 32 saves and weathered many storms by the Devils in the Kings defensive zone throughout the contest. The Devils would not only be frustrated by Quick, but would also be frustrated by several near misses on shots that sailed wide of the Kings goal. Martin Brodeur again had a big game in his own right making 31 saves on the evening and doing all he can to keep the Devils in the game. In the end, even with New Jersey’s best efforts it would only be good enough for another tough loss. If that wasn’t enough in the way of problems facing the Devils, they’ll also be taking on the tumultuous task of heading out west to Los Angeles to try and win at least one game to get the series back to Newark, NJ for a Game Five.
Coast to Coast- The Devils came out in the first period harder than in Game One, with Steven Gionta testing Quick early with a point blank wrist shot from the slot that the LA net minder turned away. About seven and a half minutes into the period the Kings’ Drew Doughty would get ahold of a loose puck in the LA defensive zone and bring it all the way up the ice. Once Doughty arrived with the puck at the slot, he would launch a wrister that beat Brodeur to his right to give the Kings the early 1-0 lead. The Kings would manage just six shots on goal for the period however did not seem to flinch from this despite the Devils stepping things up defensively after the LA goal. Quick meanwhile would have to make a double save later in the first period as he stopped a slap shot from the right point from New Jersey’s Anton Volchenkov, and the loose rebound picked up by Travis Zajac. The Devils offensively had more chances in the first period her than maybe the first two periods of Game One combined, yet still trailed by a goal after the first period concluded. It easily could have been a two goal lead for the Kings had Brodeur had not made a point blank save on the Kings’ Mike Richards in the closing moments of the period.
Quick versus Brodeur, The Stalemate Continues – The second period was more about the goalies and their ability to keep their nets “puck free” as both Quick and Brodeur would turn away nine shots on goal from each team. Brodeur would turn away an early point blank shot from Justin Williams about three minutes into the period. The stalemate would continue despite both teams getting a decent number of scoring chances. Midway through the second period it would be Quick who would be called upon to make one of the games’m biggest saves. On a breakaway from outside the Devils’ zone, Zajac would steal the puck from Doughty and come back up ice. Once in the Kings defensive zone, Zajac fed Team Captain Zach Parise with a perfect feed pass. However, Quick read the play all the way though and made a diving save turning away Parise’s attempt to tie the game.
Buying the Stairway to Overtime- The goalies duel between Brodeur and Quick would continue on in the third period, though the Devils would manage to get the game’s tying goal early on. Marek Zidlicky’s shot from the right point would deflect off of Ryan Carter’s stick in front of a lot of traffic in front of the Kings’ goal. Carter’s deflection beat Quick to his left and the game was tied 1-1 just barely three minutes into the third period. The Devils would bring the wood for much of the period and at times were able to effectively knock the Kings off of the puck. The Devils would get 10 shots on goal with Quick stopping nine. Meanwhile Brodeur would also need to make a key stop midway through the period, this time successfully denying Anze Kopitar as he skated in from the left point and tried to stuff the rubber biscuit past the New Jersey net minder.
Both teams seemed to catch breaks on late power play opportunities as the Kings gained the man advantage with just over three minutes remaining in regulation as New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus would draw an interference penalty. However, the Kings power play opportunity would be short lived as 51 seconds into the man advantage Doughty would get called for hooking. With time winding down in the third period the Devils came close to getting the game winning goal as a hard point blank shot from Ilya Kovalchuk beat Quick but hit the crossbar with just 19.7 seconds remaining.
Overtime Fit for a King- The Kings being unbeaten in overtime games turned out again to be a huge advantage for LA’s men in black as they would return the favor the Devils did them in the third period in bringing the wood. The Kings as the overtime went on started to control the puck and the time in the Devils defensive zone and slowly wore down New Jersey’s skaters who found themselves chasing the puck. Early in the period, Kovalchuk would launch a point blank shot from the point that Quick would save. It would be the last time Quick would get a serious challenge from the Devils who would only manage two more shots on goal afterward. Meanwhile the Kings managed to keep Brodeur busy on the other end of the ice as the three time cup winning veteran net minder did his best to keep the Devils afloat. Brodeur would make 10 saves, including some hard wristers from the slot by Richards and Doughty.
With just under six and a half minutes remaining in the overtime period, the Kings’ Carter would get ahold of a loose puck from behind the Devils goal and skate freely with the puck back up into the slot. After skating at a perfect 180 degree angle with the puck, Carter would launch a one timer from the slot that beat Brodeur to his right and ended the game. Once again for the Kings, another road playoff game, another victory. The Kings now are 10-0 on the road, 4-0 in overtime games in these playoffs. Once again, the Kings open a series with two victories in an opposing rink. Though it’s not over until it’s over, the Los Angeles Kings look about as certain of a mortal lock to take the Stanley Cup as one can possibly be. The New Jersey Devils are a solid hockey team, however the Kings are playing at a level unseen before and far exceeding even their own standards in making what no doubt will be franchise history.
Next Up: Game 3- The 2012 Edition of the Stanley Cup finals moves to the Staples Center in Los Angeles as the Kings for the fourth straight series will be looking to go up three games to none on the opponent. The Kings have to continue to be very business like as they look to put themselves even closer than ever before to the ultimate prize that is the Stanley Cup. For New Jersey, despite playing well enough to win in most situations, they have come across a completely different animal here. The Devils will need to go all hands on deck from here on as they are much closer to being the answer to a trivia questions as opposed to a Stanley Cup champion. You cannot with 100% certainty say this will be a sweep, however if it is may be the closest “sweep” ever if it happens. Again, the Devils have played well here however seem to be almost no match for the juggernaut that is the 2012 playoff 8th seeded western team in the LA Kings. The Kings are proving in hockey, like the NFL’s New York Giants proved this past football season that you don’t have to be the team with either the best record or highest seeding. You just have to be the team that gets hot at the right time, and with the right players, the right approach and right attitude. In short, the LA Kings have the right stuff to be a champion and are just two wins away from being able to say “Mission Accomplished.”
The King Shark
Blades of Teal: The Final Word On San Jose Sharks Hockey