NEWARK, N.J. -- The Los Angeles Kings are becoming more of a road monster with each passing opportunity in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Kings moved to 9-0 on the road and took a 1-0 lead in the Cup final with a 2-1 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils here on Wednesday night.
Kings centre Anze Kopitar beefed up his Conn Smythe Trophy bid with the winner as he broke in unguarded on Devils legend Martin Brodeur before beating him with a nasty deke before 17,625 fans at the Prudential Center.
"Game 1 has been so important for us all playoffs. We've started on the road and known it was important for us to get that win and we've done it every time," said Kings winger Dustin Penner. "This was a typical Game 1 of the Stanley Cup in that both teams were a little jittery. The puck was rolling more in this game than it was flat. The nerves get at you and you try to get too cute. It's best to keep it simple and I know you've heard it again and again but it's just best to try to get pucks in."
The Kings now have a decided edge historically, because 78 per cent of Game 1 winners have gone on to capture the Cup. But don't tell Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
"We've won one game on the road. The season started tonight," sniffed Sutter.
The Devils will look at this game as a chance that slipped away as they came on after the first period to hold an edge both in territory and scoring opportunities. A wide-open-net miss by New Jersey defenceman Mark Fayne in the third period will likely keep him, his teammates and coach Peter DeBoer awake.
"I think we're going to have to find another level. That's a team you've got to play 60 minutes against," said DeBoer. "The good news is, we started in the same hole against Philly, started in the same hole against the Rangers, and the guys responded. It would have been nice to get a bounce, but we didn't deserve to win the game tonight."
Kings centre Mike Richards cared little for characterizations of the game.
"A win is a win. Especially at this time of the season. Sometimes you play your best and you don't win," said the Kenora, Ont., native. "And sometimes you don't have your best stuff and you win. That's sports. And for us getting the first win in this series is big."
L.A. popped a soft goal by Brodeur in the first period and then hung on for the rest of the night until Kopitar put an end to the extra time.
Escaping the first period with a lead was a victory for the Kings and a missed opportunity for the Devils. Los Angeles entered the game following an eight-day layoff and one plot line focused on them losing momentum after a swift and easy-looking trip to the Cup. Many suggested the Devils were more tournament-tough and would be sharper in the early going of the series, however, that theory dripped away like condensation from the overworked air conditioners here in the shadow of the Big Apple. Los Angeles opened up the scoring with an even-strength goal midway through the first period at 9:56 as Colin Fraser potted his first of the playoffs.
Kings centre Jordan Nolan chased the puck and Devils blue-liner Andy Greene behind Brodeur's net and used his body to first pin Greene against the boards before dislodging the puck and feeding it to Colin Fraser in the slot, who whipped a wrist shot into the Jersey net. The second period featured little offence and the Devils finished the frame with just four shots but scored on their last of the frame when Anton Volchenkov recorded his first of the post-season.
Late in the second period, the Kings had a couple of chances to gain control of the puck and clear the zone but were foiled and the Devils pounced. Volchenkov grabbed the disc off the sidewall and fired a shot at the net that bounced off L.A. defender Slava Voynov and past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
"There are tough bounces at this time of the year but we're past that mentally," said Penner. "You can't let a goal like the one they scored deflate you."
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