NEWARK, N.J. — The expectation of success reverberates through the Los Angeles Kings. It has all playoffs, and it's part of the reason they're in the Stanley Cup Final.
"Everybody, I think, expects big plays out of them themselves, especially at this level. I think anytime that five guys are on the ice, they expect, on this team, to be the guy to win it," forward Dustin Penner said."That's what makes us a good team."
Jeff Carter had never experienced that.
In 62 NHL postseason games, he never scored in overtime.
When he had the chance to be the hero in Game 6 of the 2010 final for the Philadelphia Flyers, Carter saw open net but shot right into Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi's chest.
Saturday night, Carter rewrote his playoff script, scoring in Game 2 against the New Jersey Devils for a 2-1 win. It set the Kings on course for their first title in a history that dates to 1967-68.
Carter has scored 220 goals (regular season and postseason), but this one was different.
"I think is by far the biggest, for sure. I think it's my first playoff overtime goal," Carter said. "It's a huge win, it's a big win for the team."
Los Angeles, relying on the likes of Penner, captain Dustin Brown and goaltender Jonathan Quick, could wrap up the Cup this week after slicing through the playoffs with little adversity.
But Carter's past year has been tumultuous.
Last June, he was traded from Philadelphia to the Columbus Blue Jackets and remained secluded at his New Jersey beach house before finally addressing the move. A deal to the Kings and a reunion with good friend Mike Richards came in February, and it didn't take long for Carter to help solve some of his new team's scoring woes.
But before Saturday night, he had just four playoff goals in 15 games. One of those games was a career night for Carter, a hat trick against the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference final, but setting off the Game 2 overtime celebration at Prudential Center was a new high.
"Good to see him score, right?" coach Darryl Sutter said. "He's a goal-scorer. You know what, you're counting on him to score a big goal."
Carter is in the first year of an 11-year, $58 million contract signed last year with the Flyers. Throughout his NHL career, the 27-year-old has scored numerous highlight goals, but they never seemed to come at the most opportune time.
It didn't get more opportune than this, 13:42 into overtime with the balance hanging between Kings stranglehold and the potential for the Devils to make this a long series.
"Playoff hockey, you put it on the net as much as you can," Carter said of his memorable goal. "I tried to turn and get it to the net. I actually tried to hit Penns [Penner] backdoor first there and kept going around the net and it kind of popped out to me. I had someone's stick in the lane there and just tried to get out of the way and get it on net."
Carter's game-winner not only put Los Angeles half way to the Cup but seemed to further validate the Kings' trade for him as a key piece to their impressive run.
"He's been in the media a lot, he's been in a lot of storylines. A great addition for our team, a lot of offense coming over to us," forward Jarret Stoll said. "Solidify our lineup, depth-wise throughout our lineup, and made us a lot better team. Big goal. Huge goal for him and for our team."
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