After suffering an overtime loss in the opener, the New Jersey Devils will try to even the Stanley Cup Finals at one game apiece when they host the Los Angeles Kings in tonight's Game 2 at Prudential Center.
Anze Kopitar scored on a breakaway 8:13 into overtime to lift the Kings to a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of this best-of-seven series.
With Wednesday's victory, Los Angeles improved to 9-0 away from Staples Center this postseason, outscoring its opponents 32-14 in away games. The Kings' nine consecutive road wins are the most in a single playoff year in league history. They are also the first team to record 11 straight wins away from home over multiple postseasons. The Kings are 13-2 overall in this year's postseason.
"Every time you get on the road you need a team effort. It showed again tonight," said Kopitar, who is now tied with Dustin Brown for the team lead this postseason in goals (7) and points (16).
The Kings will try to extend both of their road streaks tonight before the series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4. The third game of this series is set for Monday night at the Staples Center.
On the winning goal, defenseman Drew Doughty moved the puck up the left-wing boards to Justin Williams. He then made a backhand pass in the neutral zone to his linemate Kopitar, who stickhandled alone in the New Jersey zone before firing the puck under Martin Brodeur's elevated right pad.
"It feels great. Every time you get the chance to finish it off in OT, you know, to face a world class goaltender like Marty is, it's definitely a good feeling," Kopitar said.
Jonathan Quick made 17 saves for the Kings, while Colin Fraser scored L.A.'s regulation goal.
The Kings are making their second appearance in the Cup Finals -- they lost in five games in 1993 to Montreal -- after knocking off the Western Conference's top three seeds: Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix.
Los Angeles is also the second No. 8 seed to make it this far since the NHL's postseason switched to the current playoff format in 1993-94. The 2006 Edmonton Oilers were the other eighth seed to qualify for the Cup Finals and they wound up losing in seven games to Carolina.
Brodeur, who was playing in the 200th playoff game of his career, stopped 23 shots on Wednesday for New Jersey. The Devils, who were the sixth seed in the East, are in the NHL's championship round for the fifth time in club history and first since capturing its third title in 2003.
The Devils rallied from a 3-2 series deficit in the opening round with two overtime wins against the Florida Panthers, and then eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, the East's top seed. They fell behind 1-0 in each of the last two rounds before coming back to win those series.
"The good news is we started in the same hole against Philly, we started in the same hole against the Rangers," said New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer. "We responded to the situation in the right way the last two rounds, and I expect the same."
New Jersey's lone goal came with 1:12 left in the second period. The Devils finally were able to sustain pressure in the offensive zone and pulled even when the rebound of Anton Volchenkov's shot from the left boards caromed in off a body in front.
"It's a bounce. That's part of the game," Quick said. "Felt like I played it the right way. I was trying to get it into the corner, over the glass, get a whistle. The way I directed it, it ended up, I don't know who it hit, but it hit somebody, then it ended up in the back of the net."
While the Kings are still unbeaten on the road, the Devils fell to 6-3 as the host after Wednesday's loss. The last team to lose Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals at home and still win it all was the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning.
This year's Cup Finals marks the first-ever playoff battle between the Kings and Devils and the teams only met twice during the 2011-12 regular season. New Jersey and L.A. faced each other twice in October and the Devils won both contests, taking a 2-1 shootout decision at home on Oct. 13 and posting a 3-0 victory in Los Angeles on Oct. 25.