In a series that at times has had the necessary offensive antidotes -- strong goaltending, neutral-zone clutter and bad ice -- the Kings used bursts of offensive brilliance for a second straight game to topple the Devils in overtime. After Jeff Carter's goal at 13:42 of OT gave them a 2-1 win, the Kings now head back to Los Angeles with a perfect 10-0 record on the road and perfectly positioned to win their first Stanley Cup.
On the winner, Carter, a midseason pickup from Columbus, followed his own shot, circling from the right side, behind the Devils' net and into the slot, where linemate Dustin Penner set up shop to block the vision of Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur. Carter then backed and snapped a shot around the screen and past the stick of Brodeur for the winner he virtually shot through a pinhole's worth of space. It was the first time that the first two games of a Cup final series had gone to overtime since 1951.
"Good to see him score," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. "Marty made some highlight saves against some good shooters. I don't even know if he saw it."
Overtime similarity notwithstanding, the game took on a different tenor than the first, which the Kings won, 2-1, on Anze Kopitar's superb breakaway goal. In Game 2, the Devils mounted a more consistent forecheck, cutting off the middle of the ice more effectively. They generated more chances, amassing 32 shots against L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick and effectively using tips and screens to keep the goalie from getting straight looks at shots.
"We had our chances to score," said Devils forward Adam Henrique. "We had chances in overtime. They just made a couple of key plays. That's all that separates us right now."
The first decisive play was a rush for the highlight reels, when Drew Doughty, L.A.'s ace defenseman, channeled his inner Bobby Orr or maybe his inner Scott Niedermayer. Heck it could have been his outer Darren McCarty, but Doughty didn't particularly need anyone, either King teammates or Devil foes, during the Kings' majestic end-to-end rush that opened the scoring nearly eight minutes through the first period. Doughty took the puck in his own zone and proceeded to elude the entire Devils team. After darting around Ryan Carter, he avoided the sticks of both Stephen Gionta and Bryce Salvador and flicked a wrist shot off Brodeur's body and behind him to give the Kings an early lead.
"Great play," Sutter said admiringly. "It's a 200-foot play. Win or lose tonight. That's a great play."
Doughty logged a game-high 45 shifts and more than 32 minutes of ice time, and said his inspiration for the mad dash might have been a Devil.
"I actually remember Niedermayer when he played in New Jersey having a couple of end-to-enders," he said. "He was an unbelievable player here and everywhere he played. I always wanted to emulate him. He always scored some highlight goals that I remember."
Quick was strong throughout the game, denying four tries each from Zach Parise and Patrik Elias. He made two outstretched skate stops in the second period and turned back a point shot from defenseman Mark Fayne even as his mask was being knocked off.
Throughout much of the game, the Devils were shooting wide in an attempt to get tips and deflections past Quick. They finally made it pay off three minutes into the third period. Steve Bernier won the puck in the right corner and sent a pass back to Marek Zidlicky. Again, with a line of traffic in front of the goaltender, Ryan Carter got his stick on the shot and tipped it past Quick. The goal was the first scored against the L.A. goalie in the third period of any game in the previous 184 minutes and 19 seconds.
Devils coach Pete DeBoer did other things to try to jump-start his offense. He put forwards Parise, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk together on a line that generated a handful of chances.
"It was just a shot in the arm to try to find a goal," DeBoer said. "We haven't scored enough, obviously."
That may be a combination of strong work by Quick and some hobbled bodies on the Devils' bench. Kovalchuk, in particular, has passed up a few longer shots he would normally have taken, though he did hit a bar from the slot in regulation time. He said earlier that his oft-troubled back was not bothering him.
"We played better tonight," said Devils forward Stephen Gionta. "One bounce our way and it's a tied series."
True. It could have been two bounces and an 0-2 hole. But the Devils have not finished what they have started. The Kings are up because when they've sorted through the muck and clutter, they've found just enough aces to draw a pair of winning hands.