For any NHL team to go on a long and memorable playoff run, it needs its share of unsung heroes, its grinders, its third-pair defensemen to take their turn starring in a game here and there. The Los Angeles Kings have gotten such performances from little-known winger Dwight King. The New Jersey Devils have gotten it from their fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier.
But of course a team on a long run first and foremost needs games where its stars do what stars do. Game 2 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals was such a game for the Kings.
The Stanley Cup annals can now add Drew Doughty's first-period goal to their sepia-toned collection. The Kings defenseman started from his own zone and weaved through the Devils for an unassisted goal that reminded many of Devils great Scott Niedermayer.
And certainly Jeff Carter's zone-orbiting sequence to win the game in overtime -- the Kings' second consecutive 2-1 OT win in this series -- will go down as a pivotal moment from a star whom the Kings acquired late in the season to do precisely that.
"[Carter]'s a goal scorer," an effusive Kings coach Darryl Sutter said afterward. "You're counting on him to score a big goal."
But the biggest star for the Kings in Game 2 may have been Jonathan Quick, the Vezina Trophy candidate who turned in perhaps his best game of the playoffs. Quick is very much the reason the Kings survived their regular season struggles to squeak into the playoffs with the Western Conference's eighth seed. But ever since the postseason began, the Kings have been so dominant -- they're now 14-2 -- that they haven't relied on their star goalie to steal many games.
Saturday night was different, however, as the Kings were uncharacteristically outshot 30-21 through regulation, including multiple odd-man rushes in the third period that must have given Sutter fits.
Down 1-0 for much of the game, the Devils finally tied it 2:59 into the third period and didn't let up after that. After a disappointing effort in Game 1, the Devils continued to throw everything they had at the Kings and Quick. It almost worked.
Certainly Quick was helped by his pipes (though a goalie would say he "had it covered"), particularly on Ilya Kovalchuk's chance with under 20 seconds remaining in regulation. But just as Quick got the Kings to the playoffs where his teammates could take the reins, he got the Kings to overtime in Game 2 where they finally asserted themselves again. Overtime was all L.A. as they outshot the Devils 11-3 in the extra frame.
Instead of letting the Devils back in the series, the Kings' road record remains perfect. As they have in all four rounds now, the Kings return home in the driver's seat with a 2-0 lead yet again.
It takes all kinds of contributions to reel off a playoff run like this one. Saturday night it was all about the stars named Doughty, Carter and Quick.