Commentary

Kings' success rooted in their depth

Carter is the latest to step up, but this playoff run is littered with multiple heroes

Updated: June 3, 2012, 3:36 AM ET
By Dan Arritt | Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- If there's a trend that continues to define the Los Angeles Kings in this historic playoff run, it's their ability to win in a variety of ways, with a new player seemingly stepping into the spotlight after every victory.

The latest hero was Jeff Carter, who scored the overtime winner Saturday night in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, lifting the Kings to a 2-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center and providing them another 2-0 series lead heading back to L.A.

[+] EnlargeJeff Carter
Paul Bereswill/Getty ImagesJeff Carter scored the overtime winner in Game 2, making him the latest Kings player to step up in the playoffs.

Three nights earlier, on the same choppy sheet of ice, it was Anze Kopitar who was crushed against the glass by his giddy teammates after scoring an overtime goal to send the Kings to a Game 1 victory.

Ten days before that, Dustin Penner sealed the Western Conference final with a sudden-death goal in Game 5 against the Phoenix Coyotes. A month before that, Jarret Stoll stepped up with an overtime winner to clinch the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks.

And those are just the skate-off winners.

Dustin Brown, Dwight King, Colin Fraser, Brad Richardson, Drew Doughty, the list goes on and on.

And then there's goalkeeper Jonathan Quick, the only player who has been locked in game after game. He was spectacular again Saturday night, turning aside 32 shots to improve to 14-2 in these playoffs.

"Our goalie made some saves," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said in his usual reserved tone.

Championship teams can't just rely on their handful of stars to push them through. The Devils are learning that the hard way.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise failed to hit the scoresheet again in Game 2, leaving their fourth-line teammates to once again come through with the only goal of the game.

"They did their part," New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer said.

What's best about the Kings is they've never seemed satisfied along the way. They'll enjoy the plane ride back to L.A., the fourth time in these playoffs they've flown home after taking a 2-0 series lead, likely take Sunday to rest and recuperate and then get back to work Monday evening with Game 3 at Staples Center.

Just as they did in winning Game 3 in the first three rounds, they'll pretend the first two victories never happened.

"We have to reset, refocus," Doughty said. "We have to go back to L.A. as if this series is just starting. ... We're obviously going to learn what we did right and wrong but going back home, it's a whole new series."

Just like Fraser's goal in Game 1, or Richardson's marker in Game 5 of the Vancouver series, it was Doughty's sensational individual effort just under eight minutes into Game 2 that gave the Kings a 1-0 lead and allowed them to reach overtime.

Doughty began the play by beating David Clarkson to a puck that was skidding into the Kings' defensive zone. He collected the rubber, made a wide U-turn and then skated up the middle, weaving through Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier before putting a nasty toe-drag move on Ryan Carter. He then let go of a wrist shot from left circle that beat Martin Brodeur over his right shoulder 7:49 into the game.

The play brought comparisons to a number of great NHL defensemen. Doughty made one himself.

"I actually remember [Scott] Niedermayer when he played in New Jersey, having a couple end-to-enders," Doughty said of the wily defenseman who went on to lead the Anaheim Ducks to the Stanley Cup title in 2007. "He was an unbelievable player here, everywhere he played. I always wanted to emulate him."

And like Niedermayer's approach to the game, Doughty is confident the Kings can play much better in their quest to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

"I think these first two games we haven't been at our best, so it's about time we pick up our socks and play our best hockey, too," he said.

And who knows, maybe find some more heroes along the way.

Dan Arritt covers hockey for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

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