NEWARK, N.J. — Anze Kopitar had open ice and wanted the puck. With plenty of noise and nervous energy in Prudential Center, he wasn't sure if Justin Williams heard him.
It didn't matter if he did. Williams knew what to do in feeding his Los Angeles Kings teammate for the winning goal in overtime of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night.
"A composure play from a veteran player who's won before and been there," forward Jarret Stoll said. "And then Kopi has the skill to make that play."
It was the play that finished off the Kings' 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils to take the lead in the series and the kind of play everyone has come to expect from the likes of Kopitar, Williams and Dustin Brown.
It started with Brown sacrificing his body to make a play and Drew Doughty chipping the puck out of the defensive zone. On a night when the ice was soft and chippy, it was just simple and fundamental. Williams was facing the boards when he threaded the puck with a back-handed pass between Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador.
"I saw those two on the boards battling. I wanted to make sure I went through the middle," Kopitar said. "He chipped it, obviously perfect, right on my tape. It happened pretty quick, and I was able to finish it off."
Williams downplayed his role on the play. He called it "just an area pass where you hope the guy skates into it." Right, except it was the perfect pass.
"I didn't know if they had a backchecker coming. I knew that Kopi was in the area over there," Williams said. "Hopefully it's timed right, and fortunately it was."
Then Williams had the perfect seat for Kopitar's undressing of Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur. The Slovenian star had time akin to a penalty shot and made good use of it, finally beating Brodeur with a deke and a forehand shot.
"It was nice," Williams said. "Anytime you see your own guy going in overtime on a breakaway, especially No. 11, I just felt like he was going to score. He made a great move."
As Brown said, "Big players make big plays." It was a game that had limited opportunities for big plays. Players complained of the heat and ice conditions, which weren't ideal and made for what the Kings captain called a "sluggish" game.
Brodeur and Jonathan Quick had most of the highlights; New Jersey's only goal went in off Los Angeles defenseman Slava Voynov. Still, the Kings sounded a lot like a team trailing the Cup Final in the moments after.
"We didn't have our best tonight," Williams said. "We know that we can play better and we plan on doing that in Game 2."
With one great play and the Devils' mistake that coach Peter DeBoer lamented, it didn't matter.
"Not the game we wanted to play. We had spurts there where we were OK and a good couple of pushes there, but we've got to bring more for Game 2. And we know that," Stoll said. "We got fortunate here to come out of this with a win."
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