Road teams continue to thrive in overtime
By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist / Bracket Challenge Blog
When it comes to winning in overtime during the Stanley Cup Final, it pays to wear the white sweaters.
The Los Angeles Kings continued their own success away from home this spring as well as extending the success of visiting teams in the Stanley Cup Final by beating New Jersey 2-1 in OT on Wednesday in Game 1. Anze Kopitar's goal at 8:13 of overtime improved road teams' record in Final games that go past regulation to 6-1 since 2004 and 17-5 since 1990, when Edmonton's Petr Klima scored at 55:13 of extra time in Game 1 to win the longest game in Final history.
Overall, the visiting team has won 44 of the 74 Final games to go past regulation (not counting a pair of ties).
Road teams now have won the last five times that Game 1 of the Final has gone into overtime -- you have to go back to the 1982 New York Islanders to find the last home team to start the Final with an OT win. But the three previous teams to win the first game of the Final in overtime -- the 2002 Carolina Hurricanes, 1999 Buffalo Sabres and 1994 Vancouver Canucks -- all ended up losing the series.
Kings of the road -- Los Angeles has won all three of its overtime games this spring -- and not surprisingly, all three have come on the road. The Game 1 victory improved the Kings' road record this spring to 9-0, the best single-season start away from home in playoff history. Overall, they've won a record 11 straight playoff games on the road. Jonathan Quick, who's been in goal for all 11, broke the mark of 10 straight road wins by the Islanders' Billy Smith by getting the victory on Wednesday.
The Kings are one win away from matching the one-year mark for most road victories in the playoffs -- a mark shared by both the 1995 and 2000 Devils, along with the 2004 Calgary Flames.
L.A. isn't the only visiting team that has fared well in overtime during this year's playoffs. Wednesday's game was the 24th this spring to go into overtime; the road team has won 15 of them.
Be-Deviled -- In contrast to the Kings, overtime has never been a strong point for Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.
For all his brilliance, Brodeur now has lost 23 of 39 playoff overtime decisions during his career. He's struggled even more in the Final, where he's dropped his last three and is 1-4 all-time -- though the one victory came in the 2000 Cup-winner at Dallas.
Good omen (kind of) -- At first glance, winning Game 1 should be a good omen for the Kings' hopes of winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. In the previous 72 Finals that have been played using the best-of-seven format, the team that won the opener went on to win 55 times (76.4 percent).
But that trend hasn't been nearly as solid in recent years. Beginning with Carolina's Game 1 victory against Detroit in 2002, teams that captured the first game of the Final have lost four of the last nine times -- including twice in the last three years after the team that won the opener also took Game 2.
The loss marked the first time in the three years that the Devils hosted Game 1 that they didn't win it. They've never won the Cup without capturing the first game. The Kings have won Game 1 in both of their trips to the Final -- but they're hoping for a better outcome this time than they had in 1993, when L.A. won the series opener in Montreal but lost the next four games.
Numbers game -- It was a tough night for the New Jersey trio of Zach Parise, Dainius Zubrus and Travis Zajac. All three were on the ice for both Los Angeles goals, including Kopitar's breakaway tally in overtime.
Defenseman Drew Doughty, who started the play that led to Kopitar's goal, was the only King to go plus-2.
Zubrus was the game's busiest hitter, being credited with eight of New Jersey's 44. No other player on either team had more than five.
The Kings outshot New Jersey 25-17, but more indicative of the play was the number of shot attempts: Los Angeles took 54 shots at Brodeur; the Devils attempted only 34 against Jonathan Quick. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov's game-tying goal late in the second period came on one of only five shots attempted by the Devils in the period; the Kings tried 25 (nine on goal). By dominating the puck as much as they did, the Kings wound up having to block only six shots (11 more missed the net).
Though he didn't get on the scoresheet, Kings center Jarret Stoll found other ways to make an impact. Stoll tied for the team lead with five hits -- and went 9-1 on his 10 faceoffs, helping the Kings to a 31-25 margin in the circle despite a 5-10 showing by Mike Richards.
Both coaches did their best to spread out ice time. Every skater on both teams played at least 11 minutes; Doughty led the Kings with 28:15 while defenseman Marek Zidlicky was tops on the Devils with 24:47.