Yes, this Kings run is real, now breathe
NEWARK, N.J. -- Two games into this Stanley Cup Final, and the Kings have stolen history, buzz, Devils fire, New Jersey nights, and, finally, the one thing that has even big jaded Los Angeles gasping.
Our breaths. For a second consecutive game, they stole our breaths, at least mine, as I’m sitting here in the bowels of a stunningly silent Prudential Center gulping air while trying to swallow exactly what just happened.
Gasp. The Kings are two games from winning the first Stanley Cup championship in their 44-year history after winning a second consecutive game in overtime.
Gasp. The Kings are on the verge of perhaps changing the face of hockey in Southern California forever after Jeff Carter pulled the same sort of circus act that Anze Kopitar pulled in the opener, beating the indomitable Martin Brodeur at 13:42 of overtime for a 2-1 victory and a two-games-to-none series lead.
A piece of The Rock? The Kings just bought all of this building, extending their NHL record to 10 consecutive road playoff wins.
Fact: Nine of the previous 11 teams who won the first two Stanley Cup Final games on the road ended up winning the Cup.
Opinion: “We’re not thinking about that,” said a red-faced Kings President Tim Lieweke afterward, struggling to keep from shouting. “We’re just focused on winning two more games … two more games.”
Here’s guessing the Devils were struck by a different thought. “Two bad losses … two bad losses.” It’s indeed hard to imagine the Devils rebounding to stop the Kings after this latest one.
Just like in Game 1, the Devils had fought back from an early deficit to tie the score and dominate the most of the third period. But, then just like in Game 1, the Kings bared their souls in the overtime, tying up the Devils like a giant black-and-white straitjacket, outshooting them, 11-3, with the final shot being the only one that mattered.
“Playoff hockey, you put in on the net as much as you can,” said Carter, who has been a King for only a few months after a midseason trade. “It’s usually a cheesy goal.”
Cheesy? Only if you think a hulking bearded guy performing a bit of ballet on skates is cheesy. Carter shot the puck from one side of the net, then skated around the back of the net and put it back on his stick after it was deflected across the net.
He then spun to the goal and, even though there appeared to be the entire Devils roster standing between him and the net, his teammates knew what was happening next.
“Oh yeah, you could tell, he wanted to shoot it,” said teammate Jarret Stoll. “There were a couple of different places he could have passed it, but you just knew he wanted to shoot it.”
The puck beat Brodeur for the winner to send the Kings rushing off their bench and on to the ice in a second consecutive celebration where they were the only ones in the building who were screaming. Well, OK, Drew Doughty, who scored the Kings first goal with an even more impressive bit of magic, turned and screamed into the crowd.
I would honestly pay to be in the Kings dressing room before their next overtime. For two straight games, something has happened in there that has lifted a weary team into greatness. In typical hockey fashion, Stoll referred to it only as, well, it.
“Before the overtime tonight, we all looked at each other, and we knew that it was in the room somewhere,” said Stoll. “We knew we just had to find it.”
Afterward, outside the dressing room, family and friends engaged in a typical Kings celebration. Matthew Perry was standing just inside a nearby hallway waiting to hang out with his heroes, but nobody really got excited until the appearance of Luc Robitaille.
The series returns to Los Angeles for Game 3 at Staples Center on Monday night. Considering it is the first Stanley Cup Final game to be played in city of Los Angeles, it could get a little crazy. Think Lakers times two.
“This is really going to be fun,” said Stoll. “We can’t wait to get home.”
They almost thought they were going home earlier Saturday after Doughty’s first-period goal, which will end up on Kings highlight videos forever.
Barely seven minutes into the game, Doughty unveiled 150 feet of beauty. It was like a coast-to-coast basketball layup, a 100-yard football kick return, with Doughty taking the puck deep in the Kings end, spinning away from David Clarkson, skating around Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta, then shooting it past Bryce Salvador for a goal that shocked even Doughty.
“I just saw some ice in front of me, decided to skate with the puck,” Doughty said. “I didn’t even know it went in.”
Sounds like the Kings in this series, huh? They have seen some ice in front of them, they have gone for it, and now their long-suffering fans are pinching themselves.
OK everyone, all together now, breathe…
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