Kopitar's picture-perfect memory leads to winner
By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer
NEWARK, N.J. -- Hockey players have really, really good memories.
When told that New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur had said he thought Anze Kopitar would go with a backhand attempt on a breakaway in overtime of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, the hero for Los Angeles had a simple response.
"I guess that goes back a few years when, you know, we were in the shootout in L.A., and I went backhand on him," Kopitar said. "Maybe he thought I was going to do it again. Tonight I just wanted to mix it up a little bit."
"A few years ago" was actually Nov. 27, 2006, at Staples Center. Kopitar went to the backhand and slid the puck along the ice to beat Brodeur and help the Kings knock off the Devils in a shootout.
This was a far different scenario Wednesday night at Prudential Center. This was Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, and Kopitar first had to corral a bouncing puck before skating in alone on arguably the best goaltender in NHL history.
Kopitar deked to the forehand on this occasion and had plenty of space to deposit the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory to give Los Angeles its ninth consecutive road win this postseason.
"It was a little scary at first. It was kind of a wobbly pass," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "The ice was pretty choppy, so we were just hoping he would get it under control. Once he got it under control, you just had that feeling that he’s a special player and he’s delivered for us so many times this postseason. You just had a good feeling, and fortunately we were right."
Defenseman Drew Doughty started the play by putting the puck along the left boards to Justin Williams. Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky got tangled up near the Los Angeles blue line, and then both defenseman Bryce Salvador and center Dainius Zubrus ended up trying to mark Williams, who was still able to throw the puck into the wide-open space to which Kopitar was skating.
Brodeur made an incredible, scorpion-kick save against the New York Rangers in the conference finals -- but not this time, as Kopitar flipped the puck into the net.
"It feels great," Kopitar said. "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 is now tied for the team lead with captain Dustin Brown in goals (seven) and points (16) in 15 playoff games for the Kings. He and Brown are also tied for the League lead in the postseason with a plus-14 rating. There have been 11 shorthanded goals scored in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Kopitar and Brown have been on the ice for four of the five scored by Los Angeles -- Kopitar has two of them.
He also played more than 22 minutes in this contest and won 58 percent of his faceoffs. When these two teams met earlier this season, Kopitar tried another backhanded shootout attempt -- the one-handed try made famous by Peter Forsberg in the 1994 Winter Olympics -- but that was against backup Johan Hedberg.
Whether or not Kopitar remembered either of those plays -- one from a few months ago or one from nearly six years ago -- few Kings fans will forget his overtime goal in Game 1.
"I probably would have shot it from the blue line just to make sure I got it on net," Scuderi said. "[Kopitar] has great hands and uncanny poise and patience."