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NEWARK, N.J. -- On a night fraught with bad ice, bizarre bounces and costly missed chances, it was left to New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur to save Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals in overtime.
While his team fought nerves, uncertainty and long stretches without any offensive pressure, Brodeur delivered a few vintage stops to preserve a 1-1 tie.
He stacked the pads to rob Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty in the slot at 12:32 in the third period, then squeezed them to deny Dustin Penner nine seconds later.
|Anze Kopitar's game winner stole the home-ice advantage from Martin Brodeur and the Devils.|
But 8:13 into overtime, locked in one-on-one against Kings forward Anze Kopitar, Brodeur was left face-down in the crease with the Devils staring down yet another 1-0 series hole.
Doughty chipped the puck along the boards and Justin Williams threaded a pass between Bryce Salvador and Dainius Zubrus to spring Kopitar for a breakaway.
Brodeur thought he'd go backhand, but Kopitar waited him out and made a slick move to his forehand for the clinching goal in the Kings' 2-1 win against the Devils.
"I thought he was going to go on his backhand. He just had so much time that he saw me not moving toward his forehand and he took advantage of it," Brodeur said.
Apparently Kopitar is quite capable of thinking on his skates. Asked after the game why he employed that move, he said he wanted to try something different from the last time he faced Brodeur all alone; Kopitar said he went backhand on him in a shootout in L.A. a few years ago. (It was November 27, 2006, to be exact.)
"Maybe that's why he thought I was going backhand," Kopitar said. "I guess I just wanted to mix it up."
Despite surrendering the game winner in the staredown, Brodeur said he didn't second-guess his approach. He said he would not have played it any differently.
"Every goal I'd like to have back," Brodeur said. "If I knew what he was thinking, it'd be a lot easier."
With the Devils squandering chances on a gaping net at the other end -- Zach Parise and Mark Fayne bungled opportunities while facing wide-open looks -- Brodeur helped anchor the Devils to force the game into overtime.
His trademark stacked-pads stop on Doughty in the third seemed to rally the sold-out crowd at Prudential Center and steady a nerve-stricken Devils team.
"[Mike] Richards had a lot of options. He had the puck to shoot on me and I think he had [Jeff] Carter, too, at one point, open. He kind of surprised me that he waited so long and passed it to the guy that was coming late," Brodeur said. "I just kind of stood as long as I could and tried to surprise him by stacking the pads, and he shot it right in the middle of the pads."
Brodeur, who made 23 saves on the night, followed up with another deceptively tough save on Penner on the same shift. But the Devils couldn't answer on the other end.
One play in overtime made all the difference.
"It was just a little chess match: Who's going to make the bigger mistake?" Brodeur said. "And we made the bigger one."