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Kopitar's breakaway goal give Kings a Game 1 win in OT

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- As he skated in all alone on a breakaway attempt, Anze Kopitar recalled the last two times he faced legendary goalkeeper Martin Brodeur in a shootout -- and failed.

"It goes back the last couple of years," said Kopitar, the Los Angeles Kings center who won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals with a goal against Brodeur at 8:13 of the first overtime Wednesday night, giving the Kings a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.

"I went backhand those times," said Kopitar, who was stopped in shootout attempts by Brodeur in New Jersey wins in Los Angeles in October 2010 and October 2011. "Maybe that's why he thought I would do it again. I decided to mix it up a little."

Kopitar went forehand this time after faking the backhand shot, leaving Brodeur defenseless in trying to stop the shot. The play began with a fine defensive effort by Kings captain Dustin Brown, who won the puck off the boards, then fed the streaking Kopitar, who finally beat Brodeur with the game-winner. It was Kopitar's seventh goal of the playoffs.

"I guess I played it the right way," Kopitar said.

"We made a little bit of a bad read off the boards," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said, "but we're playing to win the game there. I'm not making any excuses for that. We made a mistake, and they capitalized."

It was the ninth consecutive road victory in the playoffs for the Kings, and they are now 3-0 in overtime during the playoffs.

It marked the first time that Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was decided in overtime since 2002, when the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on a goal by Ron Francis less than a minute into the extra session.

Brodeur, who stopped 23 shots, tried to assess Kopitar's scoring move.

"He had too much time," Brodeur said. "He moved it to his forehand and he beat me. I wish I knew which way he was thinking, because that would have made life easier. I wish I could get every one that gets by me back."

Colin Fraser scored a goal midway through the first period, his first of the playoffs, on a play where the Devils' defense forgot where he was. The goal came on only the second shot of the night for the Kings.

Anton Volchenkov scored a fluke goal in the closing minutes of the second period, when the puck initially appeared to deflect off the chest of Patrik Elias past Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick. Quick continued his fine play in the playoffs, stopping 17 of the 18 shots he faced.

"I think we were outworking them most of the game," Quick said. "The team that outworks the other will win this series."

The Devils had two good chances in the third period. With 16:02 remaining, there was a mad scramble in front of Quick, and Zach Parise got in the middle of the play. In the scrum, Parise pushed the puck into the goal with his glove, and the official waved off the goal in a proper call.

With 10:02 remaining, the Devils entered the zone on a 3-on-1 break with defenseman Mark Fayne trailing the play. Fayne had a wide-open net, but he shot the puck wide right.

"The puck just started to bounce," Fayne said. "I would like to think I'd make that shot nine times out of 10. I'd like to get a chance like that 10 times. It was just an unlucky break."

The Kings had two chances with 11:37 remaining, when Fraser had two close-range backhands that he tried to stuff past Brodeur to no avail.

With 7:19 left, Brodeur made three sensational saves, two on Jeff Carter from point-blank range. The Kings registered six consecutive shots at the 40-year-old goalie, and he stopped every one.

"I think we did a good job of feeling each other out," Brodeur said. "We have two days now to see what we could do better. It's disappointing, but it's just one game. We need to do a better job to deal with their quickness."

DeBoer was not pleased with his team's effort.

"I don't think we deserved to win," DeBoer said. "It would have been nice to get one, but if we did, we would have been sneaking one out. We have to find another level."

DeBoer is confident his team will get a bounce-back effort.

"We started in the same hole against Philly and the Rangers, and we responded," DeBoer said. "We have to be able to do it again."

Mike Richards had the best Los Angeles chance in the closing minutes, but his wrist shot was corralled by Brodeur. David Clarkson, who had two great chances in the first two periods, had a slap shot that Quick stopped with 28.8 seconds left in regulation, and the teams headed to overtime.

After the two teams felt each other out for the first 10 minutes of the first period, the Kings took advantage of the Devils' defense falling asleep to the left of Brodeur.

Jordan Nolan skated with the puck behind the net and spotted Fraser all alone to the left of the crease. Fraser almost went down to the ice to get off a wrist shot that eluded Brodeur. Defensemen Andy Greene and Fayne somehow lost sight of where Fraser was, enabling him to get off the wide-open shot.

"It was good for us to get the first goal, especially on the road," Kopitar said.

The road remains kind to the Kings.

"We don't care what the numbers are," center Trevor Lewis said. "We got a big win in Game 1. It doesn't matter if it's three or seven or nine. All of that doesn't matter now. We just found a way to battle through everything and get the win."

The Kings then got a little momentum from Fraser's goal and started to skate like the team that steamrolled the entire Western Conference in the playoffs. Los Angeles turned up the heat on the Devils and increased the speed of the game but didn't get many scoring chances.

In fact, the Devils got the better of the good scoring chances from that point on in the period. Clarkson had two excellent chances, one where he skated in alone, only to fire the shot high over the goal and a sprawling Quick with eight minutes left.

Clarkson also missed high on Quick with 1:58 remaining in the period. Travis Zajac had a shot from point blank range with 6:42 left that Quick managed to smother.

"We came out a little tentative, as expected in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals," DeBoer said. "But we got better as the game went on."

The shots were dead even at 5-5 after the first 20 minutes.

The Kings continued the pressure in the opening stages of the second period, putting four shots at Brodeur that were all stopped. The Devils could not muster a shot on goal for the first nine minutes of the second period.

Jarret Stoll of the Kings was whistled for tripping, but the Devils could do nothing with the man advantage. In fact, the Kings had the better chance, as Lewis' short-handed attempt hit the knob of Brodeur's stick with 9:47 left in the period.

The Kings had another good chance with 7:47 remaining, when defenseman Rob Scuderi's slap shot from the blue line was stopped via a Brodeur glove save.

Dainius Zubrus went off for elbowing with 6:37, but the Devils killed off the penalty with ease, doing what they did all season long, leading the NHL with a 90 percent penalty kill.

The Kings almost got a gift goal in the closing seconds of the second period, when Stoll fired a bouncing shot toward Brodeur that he stopped with his blocking pad, but the puck bounced up and Brodeur had to snare it out of mid-air with five seconds left.

NOTES: One thing has been guaranteed already. An American-born captain will take hold of the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at the close of the series. Either Brown, a New York native, or Parise, a Minneapolis native, will collect the Cup. It marks the first time that two American native captains have squared off in the Stanley Cup Finals. Brown or Parise will be the first American captain to take the cup since Derian Hatcher of Dallas in 1999. ... Veteran Petr Sykora was once again a healthy scratch for the Devils, replaced by Jacob Josefson. ... Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk almost signed with the Kings two years ago, forcing the New Jersey to up its offer to Kovalchuk to over $100 million. Kovalchuk nearly signed for seven years and $84 million with the Kings.
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