Anze Kopitar is hardly the skater a goaltender wants to see bearing down on him in overtime with yards of unimpeded ice. Kopitar's slick hands, put on display during the St. Louis series, waited out Martin Brodeur and snagged Los Angeles a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday evening, giving the Kings home-ice advantage in the process.
In a physical game where each squad took turns carrying the play and using its forecheck to create offensive chances, several strange bounces of the puck were ultimately what decided the opening stanza of the finals. Kopitar's goal was the product of New Jersey being in a bit too deep on the offensive end of the ice allowing Justin Williams, one of two Los Angeles players with a Cup ring (Rob Scuderi, the other), to spring the immensely talented center in on goal with a backhand pass.
Los Angeles' first goal on the evening was again a product of their ability to disrupt their opponents deep in their own defensive zone, as they created a turnover that led to Colin Fraser's opening goal. The Kings had the better of the play for much of the first two periods before the Devils began asserting themselves physically and getting pucks on Jonathan Quick. Once the Devils began finishing their checks and dictating the terms of the play, the tide began swinging in the Devils' favor and their efforts were rewarded.
Late in the second period the Devils kept the puck in the offensive zone, something that usually the opposition is very successful at doing, when Anton Volchenkov fired a shot on Quick only to see the rebound pop off the Connecticut native's pads and bounce in off teammate Slava Voynov, who was busy tying up Patrik Elias. This was not the Devils' first offensive chance, as David Clarkson fired high on a gaping net in the first period and Mark Fayne shot well wide on a close-range attempt in the third period.
The Devils were simply the victim of a few too many bounces against them on Wednesday evening, as Game 1 revealed what should be a physical series that is sure to get a bit scrappier, as evidenced by the jawing back and forth between New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus and the Kings' Jarrett Stoll.
Random observations from Game 1:
-Ilya Kovalchuk, it's okay to shoot the puck. The Devils did their best FC Barcelona impression (Arsenal and the Italian national team work in this quip as well) by making way too many passes at times in the offensive zone, especially on even strength.
-The Kings certainly threw their weight around, but New Jersey answered back with several checks of their own, including one former Flyer maligned for his inconsistency, Zubrus, running over another in Jeff Carter.
-Side note: Did not hear Jeff Carter's name called too often by Doc Emrick on Wednesday, nor was Travis Zajac's mentioned too often as well on the New Jersey side.
-The NHL seriously needs to get new commercials, as we've been seeing the Budweiser "Wego" commercial for far too long now.
-Speaking of commercials, are we to assume that Ridley Scott, director of sci-fi epics Alien and Blade Runner, intended for his latest film, Prometheus (essentially the Alien prequel) to be used in a Coors Light commercial? Do they use the Coors as water on this planet?
-Two great saves from Martin Brodeur in the third period, including a vintage two-pad stack, helped the Devils' stave off the Kings' attack for several minutes.
-David Clarkson found himself buzzing around the puck most of the evening, as a good old Canadian boy from Toronto should (Don Cherry loves David Clarkson, if you didn't know already), but it will be Clarkson's slap shot in the dying seconds of the third period that the grinding forward will want back. Careening down the right wing, Clarkson had a screen set up and much of the upper short side to shoot, but Quick's glove was too fast and benefitted from Clarkson not getting the shot up another inch or two.
-Loved hearing the atmosphere in The Rock that loud, but who let the kid with the Rangers' jersey in? (He was seen sitting next to the glass pane that needed replacing in the third period).
-Expect the Devils' to make the necessary adjustments for Game 2 as their Game 2 victories against the Rangers and Flyers were convincing wins highlighted by strategy changes that allowed them to carry the play with their forecheck.
-Have to believe that Dustin Penner has the best beard remaining in the playoffs, Clarkson and Kovalchuk will give him a challenge.
-Also, speaking of Penner, anyone else think of a maple syrup joke when the winger blew a tire late in the game while heading in on the forecheck.
-Zach Parise and Adam Henrique had a few solid chances, but the Devils will need more from them in Game 2 as Los Angeles will need a bit more from Mike Richards. Dustin Brown had his share of scoring chances but largely threw his body around, as the Kings' captain is wont to do.
-It's always amusing seeing exterior shots of the Prudential Center, as they only seem to focus on the arena itself and a block or two radius. Not too far from The Rock, up South Orange Avenue, is where the Newark Riots began in 1969, so there isn't terribly much to highlight for the broadcast, but a shot or two of historic Penn Station would be sufficient.
-Definitely enjoyed Barry Melrose's suit while watching the NHL Network pre-game coverage.
-The Devils are not receiving much love from the NHL media, which may have happened against Philadelphia and also against the Rangers. Seemed to work then.
-New Jersey is 1-2 in series opening games this playoff year.
-Have to give credit to the Kings' Drew Doughty for an excellent outlet pass to Justin Williams on the overtime, winning goal.
-I'd see him play enough this season, as well as in the playoffs, but Jonathan Quick is a tough nut to crack, Positionally sound and he does a tremendous job taking away the lower half of the net, his play seemed to create an extra split-second of thought in the minds of the New Jersey shooters.
-Brodeur is tempting fate with how often he's come out to play the puck, and he certainly gave Devils' fans a collective heart attack when he cleared the puck off of Jeff Carter late in the game.
-Fearless and entirely infallible Game 2 prediction: Devils 2, Kings 0: Brodeur shines, Kovalchuk ices with an empty-netter and Zubrus nets the winner.