Kopitar and Kings Sneak a Win
To the very end, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils was extremely close. Either team could have won the first game of this series, surprisingly the Devils seemed to have the momentum leading into the overtime period. Unfortunately for the hometown crowd, the very talented Anze Kopitar was able to receive a pass with plenty of time and space with only the goaltender to beat. Just over eight minutes into the only overtime period, Kopitar was able to freeze Brodeur with a fake shot and deke, making Game 1 a 2-1 overtime final.
The game started with both teams feeling out what the other team was trying to do on defense and the forecheck. With only five shots on net for both sides in the first period, the momentum was not really captured in any way until the fourth liner, Colin Fraser of the Kings received a pass from Jordan Nolan. Fraser took a one touch shot for the first goal of the game.
Nolan, a seventh round draft pick and rookie, played like a seasoned veteran. The first goal was caused simply by Nolan forechecking physically, knocking the defenseman off the puck behind the net. Once getting the puck, Nolan made a no look pass to Fraser who was in the high slot looking for a shot on net.
The second period seemed to be in total control by the Kings. The Kings outshot the Devils 9-3, but it only takes one shot to even up a 1-0 game. The Devils defenseman, Anton Volchenkov proved this by firing a puck towards the net late in the period. At first review, the goal was awarded to Patrik Elias for a deflection, but later changed because in actuality, the puck hit a Kings defenseman and into the net. After the game tying goal from the Devils, it seemed like the momentum shifted completely to the Devils.
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The Kings looked quite sloppy at the end of the second period, all the way to the start of overtime. The Devils actually had a goal within four minutes into the third period, but it was waived off because of a distinct hand swiping motion on the part of Zach Parise. If Parise was not so deliberate in his movement with his arm, the puck would have most likely have trickled in to the net anyway.
After a few scoring chances for both teams in a tied game, the third period came to a close. The 24th period of overtime of this year's playoffs was hard fought for the short amount of time it took to get a game winner. The Kings best line last night, Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Justin Williams, were able to create something out of nothing with an amazing pass. Brown hit the puck carrier in the neutral zone, jarring the puck lose. Williams made a no look backhanded pass across the ice to a waiting Kopitar. Kopitar did not disappoint Kings fans by making mince meat of Brodeur with a fake shot, finishing with a shot going top shelf.
Regardless of who won Game 1, this series is already getting rough, considering there were 79 hits in this game. The Devils actually won the takeaway and blocked shot battles, beating the Kings 8-4 on takeaways and 15-6 in blocked shots. Both goaltenders played outstanding tonight, both getting a save percentage of .920 or up.
The Devils surprisingly had a lot of scoring chances in the latter half of the game. Mark Fayne, a rookie defenseman for the Devils had a wide open net, but the shot went wide in the third period. It would not be surprising if the Devils were able to come away with a win in Game 2 before the series heads to Los Angeles.
In order for the Devils to even up the series, they need to utilize the points on offense for high shots on Jon Quick. Quick plays very low in his stance when the puck goes up to the points, hence why high shots would have a good chance at beating the youngster. The Kings did get the win, but did not look like the team that swept the Blues and beat the President's Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks. Although the Kings road record in the playoffs has improved to 9-0, they need to play better on Saturday if they want to keep their undefeated road record.
By: Stephen London
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer