NEWARK, N.J. - The Los Angeles Kings had no choice when they began the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs seven weeks ago. As the eighth-seeded team in the West, they had to win some road games if they had designs on winning the franchise's first title.
But to go a perfect 10-for-10 away from the land of the rich and famous, well, that seemed like a dream, or a Hollywood script. Nevertheless, that's just what the Kings did with Jeff Carter's game winner 13 minutes and 42 seconds into overtime for a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Saturday.
The Kings not only extended their record to 10 consecutive wins to start a postseason, they became only the fourth team to win 10 road games in a playoffs, matching the 1995 and 2000 Devils as well as the 2004 Calgary Flames.
For the fourth straight series, the Kings have marched into the opposition's building and flew home with a 2-0 series lead. This time, though, they accomplished the feat against a Devils team that led all other clubs in the playoffs with a 6-2 home record. Sorry, make that 6-4 now with Game 3 set for the Staples Center on Monday.
"Tonight was heavy lifting," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "You know, it was along the boards. Their defence was coming down. Quite honest, for probably a good part of two periods, they were controlling that part of the boards. Hey, you know what, we'll have our work cut out going home."
This is the 12th time a road team has snatched the first two games of the Stanley Cup final. Of the previous 11 series, nine of the teams that won the first two games on the road went on to win the NHL championship.
It will be interesting to see how the Devils respond to this devastating loss. They were much better in Game 2 than the series opener and for long stretches dominated their opponents by hemming the Kings in their own zone.
But Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick was his usual brilliant self. He held his teammates in to get the game into overtime, and then the Kings played much better in the extra period.
"You can't feel sorry for yourself," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. "We played a much better game. I knew we would respond. We did it the right way."
The goal in overtime certainly put a smile on Carter's face. It was a little less than a year ago, a week or so after the Boston Bruins had claimed the Stanley Cup, all 30 teams gathered in Minneapolis-St. Paul for the 2011 NHL entry draft and the Philadelphia Flyers traded him on the same day his close friend Mike Richards.
Richards, however, went to Los Angeles. Carter was moved to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers needed salary cap space to sign free-agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. How did that work out?
Both Carter and Richards were shocked at the time of the moves. Richards eventually was excited about heading to Los Angeles. Carter went into a snit about being dealt to Columbus.
He never hit his stride in Ohio, so the Blue Jackets gave up on him, too. They dealt him to the Kings in exchange for skilled defenceman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick.
Since being reunited with Richards (with apologies to Peaches and Herb) and it felt so good, Carter has been an inconsistent performer for the Kings. But they have lost only seven times since they acquired him on Feb. 23 in the regular season and playoffs combined.
"He's a goal-scorer," Sutter said. "You're counting on him to score a big goal."
Big goal? It was Carter's first career playoff overtime goal.
"I think this is by far the biggest," he said. "I think it's my first playoff overtime goal. It's a huge one. It's a big one for the team. Gets us a two-game lead here. Gets us where we wanted to be coming in here."
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