Cullen: Kopitar, Kings leaving Devils behind

Scott Cullen
6/4/2012 11:40:43 PM
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Now that the Los Angeles Kings have taken a three-games-to-none lead over the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Final, after a 4-0 win on home ice in Game Three, there is little doubt about the end result of the Best-of-Seven.

There is a theory that there is no such thing as momentum from one game to the next in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but that theory runs into difficult when it comes to this year's Cup Final because the Los Angeles Kings, while holding the edge in play, are running away with the series more decisively than their territorial edge would suggest.

How this plays into the momentum theory is that, after two overtime losses to the Kings in the first two games of the series, the Devils needed to mount some sort of an attack in Game Three to get back into the series. For the first half of the game, they did, holding an edge in play even when though they surrendered the first goal of the contest five minutes into the second period, when Alec Martinez banged in a puck that Devils G Martin Brodeur thought he had covered (and he may have) with his left leg pad.

Nearly 10 minutes later, however, Kings C Anze Kopitar scored the second goal, beating Zach Parise to the net then finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play with linemates Justin Williams and Dustin Brown. That goal took the air out of the Devils and they didn't mount a serious offensive threat for the rest of the night, registering a total of 22 shots on goal and going 0-for-5 on the power play. New Jersey's power play is 0-for-11 in the series. If the Devils weren't already down 2-0 in the series, falling behind 2-0 in Game Three wouldn't have been so crushing but, considering the Devils have managed two goals in three games, needing three to secure the comeback seemed like a daunting task -- and the Devils knew it.

Third period power plays goals by Jeff Carter and Justin Williams locked the game, and the series, down for the Kings. A two-point game gives Kopitar 18 points in the playoffs, moving him into a tie with New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk, who has been stuck on 18 points since the Final began. It's entirely possible that Kovalchuk is hurt, which would at least help justify his performance (no points, five shots on goal in three games).

On the other hand, Kopitar has really come into his own this postseason. He's been a productive player since arriving in the league in the first place, but he's in surprisingly rare company, ranking fifth in the league in points (230) over the last three seasons and now has 23 points in 23 career playoff games. He turns 25 this summer, so there's a lot more of his story waiting to be told.

Veteran winger Simon Gagne returned to the lineup for the Kings, playing his first game since suffering a concussion against Phoenix December 26. He wasn't much of a factor, playing a team-low 6:39 and taking a slashing penalty, but he did manage to tie for the team lead with three shots on goal in his limited ice time.

Former Kings, and current Devils, defenceman Peter Harrold continues to play a big role for New Jersey. He played 61 AHL games and 11 NHL games during the regular season, but has played 21:19 per game in the Final and part of the reason could lie in the advanced stats, as his plus-18 Corsi from Game Three was the best mark among all skaters (per www.timeonice.com).

The Kings are now 15-2 in this year's playoffs, a dominant run, so while the Devils are still alive for at least one more game, the odds are off-the-charts against them somehow winning the next four games.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Anze Kopitar, Martin Brodeur (Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)


(Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)
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