The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils went to overtime in a clean, relatively penalty-free Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals and a breakaway goal from Kings center Anze Kopitar handed Los Angeles a 2-1 win to get the series underway.
Kopitar’s goal is the focal point of the media coverage, but it’s important to underscore that this happened because the Kings defense decisively won the battle against the Devil offensive players when it came to simply getting good shots. Ilya Kovalchuk, the New Jersey forward who has more points than anyone in the playoffs, got just one shot on goal. Zach Parise had three and was a non-factor. As a team, the Devils generated just 17 shots. Given that the man in goal, Jonathan Quick, is merely an elite goaltender who’s playing at an even higher level in the postseason, the miracle is that New Jersey scored at all.
Los Angeles got the game’s first goal in the opening period, New Jersey countered with a tying score in the second period and the teams played scoreless through the third and then eight more minutes of overtime before Kopitar got the puck in the open and was able to beat Martin Brodeur for the game-winner.
New Jersey can take heart in the fact their own defense was sound, allowing 25 shots and with the exception of Kopitar, mostly kept forwards Dustin Brown and Dustin Penner off the puck. Both players have been a big reason the Kings went from an anemic offense to a juggernaut in the playoffs, so the Devils have to be pleased with the defensive containment. Ultimately though, it’s going to take a lot of shots and high-quality opportunities to beat Quick, and New Jersey was nowhere close to being where they need to on offense.
Game 2 will be back in the Meadowlands on Saturday night.