The Los Angeles Kings are now an astonishing 9-0 on the road in the playoffs! Some may ask “how an 8th seed can have a 1-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final?” Not losing a game on the road helps that’s for sure! I don’t really have a rooting interest in this series, I like both teams. The only thing I am cheering for is a seven game series because Game 1 was fantastic.
Before the game even started I was getting a bit annoyed with the broadcast. Doc Emrick felt the need to tell all of us how “hot” both of these teams are going into the Final. Um Doc, I can’t remember the last time a “cold” team who had been playing bad hockey made it to the Final. Save the obvious points for John Madden and Tim McCarver. The first period got off to a very slow start. It looked like neither team wanted to make a big mistake early. The New Jersey Devils were not playing their game for most of the opening period. They were turning pucks over left and right, but did not give up too many chances. The Kings did not have that great of a start either. Jordan Nolan made a great play by winning a board battle behind the net and found former Blackhawk Colin Fraser, who scored his first career playoff goal, at 9:56. It was a goal the Martin Brodeur should have had. In a series where goals will be a premium, soft goals will kill you. Both teams finished the first period with 5 shots each, but LA held a 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard.
The 2nd period started off much like the 2nd period began, but the Devils began to step up their physical play. Both teams started to forecheck much better than they did in the first period. I hope Joel Qunneville was taking notes on what a great forechecking team can accomplish. While taking those notes, I hope he also noticed how well the Kings defensemen move the puck out of their own zone. Drew Doughty is the best puck moving defenseman in the league. For a team, like the Hawks, who preach about the defensemen carrying the puck, they aren’t even in the same ballpark as the Kings. Dainius Zubrus and Stephen Gionta had big hits that seemed to spark the Devils’ bench.
The biggest spark came with about 5 minutes to go in the 2nd period. Devils’ captain Zach Parise was down in front of the Kings net when Jonathan Quick decided to massage Parise’s face with his glove and give him the business.
The New Jersey bench went crazy after this play and they turned that energy into the game tying goal. Anton Volchenkov fired a slap shot that Quick couldn’t control. The rebound deflected off the chest of LA’s Slava Voynov and ended up behind Quick. The second period ended with the two teams tied at 1.
The Devils carried the momentum into the 3rd period and dictated the play. It looked like they had grabbed the lead at the 3:58 mark but referee Dan O’Halloran quickly waived the goal off. The replay clearly showed Zach Parise pushing the puck across the goal line with his hand. It was a good call on the ice that was upheld. Both teams traded chances in the 3rd period and both goalies stood tall. Brodeur looked like he was 30 again. In a sequence, with about 7:30 to go in the 3rd, Marty stacked his pads to rob Drew Doughty of the g ahead goal. He had to make 2 more big saves from in close before the Devils could clear the puck.
After 60 minutes, the Kings and Devils were tied at one and Game 1 headed into overtime. And why the heck not? OT seems to be the theme of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, right Blackhawks fans? I have a feeling that this will not be the last overtime game this series sees either. Quick got challenged a few times early in the OT session but held off the New Jersey charge. About 8 minutes into the extra session, Doughty made a great backhand pass, from the boards, to Justin Williams. Williams found Anze Kopitar streaking down the middle of the ice all by himself.
Kopitar was able to freeze Brodeur with a nifty little move while Dainius Zubrus was too late getting back, game over. I couldn’t help but think of one of Dale Tallon’s biggest mistakes as Blackhawks general manager. Back in the 2005 entry draft Kopitar was sitting on the board for the Hawks’ taking, but instead Tallon went with the legendary Jack Skille. Yuck!
Player of the Game
Jordan Nolan was huge for the Kings last night. He caused the turnover behind the New Jersey net that set up the Kings first goal. He was all over the ice and was hitting anything in red and black. He was always in front of the net and he gave his line and his team a huge spark. He had 11:26 in ice time, which I’m sure is a lot more than head coach Darryl Sutter planned on playing him. If the Kings can continue to get this type of play and energy out of its 4th line, they are going to be very hard to beat.
Turd of the Game
The Devils Mark Fayne must have some horrible nightmares last night, worse than Thai food after midnight kind of nightmares. With just about 10 minutes to go in the 3rd, the puck found Fayne’s stick with Quick down and out. Fayne had the entire net to shoot at and he shanked it and missed the net completely. If the Devils lose this series, that will be a play that will haunt Fayne for a long, long time.
The Kings stole Game 1 on the road which is huge, but it doesn’t spell doom for the Devils. Remember the Boston Bruins lost the first two games of last year’s Final before winning the Cup in 7 games. The Devils need to win Game 2 to get back in this series. Going to Los Angeles down 2-0 will be a very hard hill to overcome.