After winning the first two games on the road, the Los Angeles Kings will try to take a stranglehold on the Stanley Cup Finals tonight, when they host the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 at the Staples Center.
The Kings notched a pair of 2-1 overtime victories in New Jersey in the first two tilts of this best-of-seven series, marking the first time in 61 years that Games 1 and 2 of the Cup Finals were decided beyond regulation. Anze Kopitar recorded the OT winner on a breakaway in Game 1 and Jeff Carter ended Saturday's second game with a superb individual effort.
Carter scored with 6:18 remaining in overtime to help move the Kings closer to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship. Carter gathered the puck after circling around the New Jersey net, moved into the high slot and fired a low wrister past Martin Brodeur's right shoulder and inside the left post.
"It's a huge [goal]. It's a big one for the team," Carter said. "Gets us a two-game lead here. Gets us where we wanted to be coming in here."
It was the first playoff overtime goal of Carter's career and his fifth marker of this postseason. All told, the Kings have played seven Stanley Cup Finals games in franchise history and five have been decided in overtime. Road teams have also won 13 of the last 16 OT games in the Cup Finals and are 18-5 since 1990.
With another dramatic victory in Game 2, Los Angeles, which entered the playoffs as the eighth seed in the West, is now an amazing 14-2 in the 2012 postseason and 10-0 on the road. The Kings are just 4-2 on home ice, but they've been able to jump out to 3-0 leads in each of their previous three playoff series this spring.
Jonathan Quick made 32 saves for the Kings, who also have won 12 in a row on the road in the playoffs dating back to last year in addition to claiming all 10 of their away games in this postseason. Both streaks are NHL records.
The Kings also tied the NHL record for most road wins in a playoff year, matching a record held by three other teams, including the 1995 and 2000 Devils.
Ryan Carter supplied the lone goal for New Jersey in Saturday's loss, while Brodeur stopped 30 shots.
"It's tough. But you can't feel sorry for yourself," said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer. "We played a much better game. I knew we would respond. We did it the right way. Came up one goal short."
The Kings also received a spectacular goal by Drew Doughty in the first period, as the former Norris Trophy nominee skated end-to-end and beat Brodeur to the blocker side with a wrister from the right circle. The highlight-reel goal gave L.A. a 1-0 lead at the 7:49 mark of the first period and also represented Doughty's 12th point (3 goals, 9 assists) of the playoffs, tying him with Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers for the postseason lead among defensemen.
"I just saw some ice in front of me," said Doughty, who also tied the club record for points by a defenseman in a single playoff year. "Decided to skate with the puck. I don't know who the D-man was, but I tried to use him as a screen. Marty has that quick glove so I went blocker side."
The Devils face a serious task if they want to earn the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup title, as nine of the 11 teams to lose the first two games of the Cup Finals at home have gone on to lose the series. The two exceptions were the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who fell behind 3-0 before rallying to defeat Detroit, and the 1966 Montreal Canadiens, who won four straight to eliminate the Red Wings.
New Jersey has a 6-4 record on the road in this postseason, but has claimed five of its last seven as the guest.
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.