Haggerty: Kings look ready for crown after Game 1 victory

Haggerty: Kings look ready for crown after Game 1 victory
May 31, 2012, 4:58 am
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NEWARK, NJ At a certain point the Los Angeles Kings might begin to think they are a team of destiny during this years Stanley Cup playoffs.
First, they vanquished the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks and possibly severed the final few strings of cord keeping together the dysfunctional marriage between Roberto Luongo and his team. Then the Kings dominated the St. Louis Blues in a four-game sweep that saw LA outscore the NHLs best defensive team by a 15-6 margin before romping their way to the conference finals.
It was off to the Western Conference Finals, where LAs hockey royalty squashed the Phoenix Coyotes in five games and dashed the Cup dreams of Shane Doan with a good, old-fashioned helping of hard feelings at the end.
Not even seven days of gathered rust could dethrone the Kings as they withstood some of New Jerseys best punches to secure a 2-1 victory in overtime of Game 1 at the Prudential Center.
Anze Kopitars goal was the difference-maker in overtime, but the victory was truly built on confidence constructed through a compelling postseason run.
The Kings arent brazen or foolish enough to pronounce the series over after one game, but there is belief within Los Angeles room that they will pull things out in the end.
Thats the depth and the heart that we have. A team could outshoot us 30-10 and we dont care. We still want to win so badly, and were so hungry to get that goal in overtime and win the game, said Drew Doughty, who started the play that led to the overtime game-winner. The boys did a great job with that.
Los Angeles could have curled up into a ball and cried for mama in overtime when the waters got a little rough. The humid New Jersey weather wreaked havoc with their hydration levels and the ice conditions had pucks bouncing all over creation.
Marty Brodeur looked every bit the first ballot Hall of Famer that Dustin Penner deemed him after Game 1 was over while stone-walling the Kings in the second and third period.
Brodeur made 23 saves in all, but his double-stacked stop of a clean Doughty rush from the slot off a Mike Richards pass was like watching a great goaltender from a bygone era.
The Devils built momentum while enjoying the better of the chances in the extra session, and they had the crowd at The Rock ready to celebrate a New Jersey win.
But the Kings are a perfect road team in the playoffs, and a hockey club doesnt build a 9-0 postseason record away from their friendly confines by buckling under pressure. Instead, Doughty took advantage of a little chaos in the neutral zone with a textbook chip off the boards, and Justin Williams and Kopitar did the rest for the Kings.
Williams no-look backhand pass to space was the cold-blooded move of a veteran thats been through the playoff wars, and Kopitar flashed the skill thats made him a Conn Smythe candidate during these playoffs.
But the play was made through an unbending mentality.
Most hockey clubs take the personality of their captains and key leaders, and Los Angeles is no different. Dustin Browns lunatic fringe intensity sets the tone for a Kings squad that refuses to break.
Its been the same for our team all year, said Brown. Weve been really good in this postseason at handling momentum. I thought they took it to us in the second half of the game, but overtime is overtime.
There are going to be good chances for both teams. They had some good chances and we found the best chance.
When Kopitars slick double-move lured Brodeur out of position and opened things up for his game-winner around the goaltenders pads, the Kings were once again rewarded for a champions resilience.
I saw those two on the boards battling. I wanted to make sure I went through the middle. I don't know if he heard me or not, said Kopitar. I yelled for the puck. He chipped it obviously perfect, right on my tape. You know, it happened pretty quickly. I was able to finish it off.
LAs world class players ended up with the overtime game-winner, goalie Jonathan Quick allowed only one fluky second period goal that bounced off his own defenseman, and role players like Colin Fraser (goal), Jarret Stoll (nine of 10 face-off wins) and Jordan Nolan (four hits and an assist) created energy all over the ice.
Its easy to see why Los Angeles has positioned itself for their first Stanley Cup title after rising from a humble eighth seed. They utilize every player on the roster and have had 16 different players score a goal during the postseason.
From a series standpoint its huge. To put them behind us from the get-go makes it a little more difficult for them to get back in it, said Brown. If we play our game and do the right things then it makes it extremely difficult for them.
The only thing the Kings are waiting for: to get crowned with a Cup and all its spoils with three more victories that look much more winnable after stealing Game 1.