Tomorrow’s story tonight …
The Kings waited and waited and waited some more.
Veteran center Jeff Carter scored four goals in the playoffs before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night in Newark, N.J. He even had a three-goal game against the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference finals.
But until Saturday he hadn’t scored a truly meaningful goal for them.
Carter’s strike 13 minutes, 42 seconds into overtime meant he finally met the expectations placed on his broad shoulders when the Kings acquired him from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a deal before the trade deadline.
Carter chased down his own rebound, circled the ice until he found ample room to survey the situation and then whistled a shot through traffic, past Martin Brodeur and into the back of the net. At last, he put to rest the image of him as an indifferent player.
It wasn’t his first big goal in the NHL, but it was his first big goal for the Kings.
“Obviously exciting,” Carter said Sunday afternoon after the Kings returned to Southern California. “It’s a big moment in my career. It’s a huge goal for the team. I got a lot of texts, a lot of phone calls and whatnot.”
Carter’s struggles this season coincided with a trade to the lowly Blue Jackets from the Philadelphia Flyers. Carter and current Kings teammate Mike Richards helped the Flyers reach the Final in 2010 only to lose to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The trade to the Kings for defenseman Jack Johnson seemed to be just the thing to re-ignite the fire in Carter, but it took until Saturday for his new team to reap the rewards fully. It was Carter’s fifth goal of the playoffs and his 10th point in 16 games.
“I had a couple of goals,” Carter said, disputing a reporter’s notion that it took a while to find his customary scoring touch after the trade from the Blue Jackets to the Kings. “I haven’t scored at my normal pace all year.”
Carter had six goals in 16 games for the Kings after scoring 15 in 39 games for the Blue Jackets. He scored 33 or more in each of his last three seasons with the Flyers, including a career-high 46 in 2008-09.
–Power (play) outage
Yes, the Kings lead in the series 2-0. No doubt, they’ve seized control with two overtime victories over the Devils.
But there’s also the nagging question of their punchless power play. How much easier would they make things on themselves in Game 3 if they could click once or twice with the man-advantage tonight at Staples Center?
After all, the Kings are only 6 for 77 during the playoffs on the power play, including 0 for 3 so far in the Stanley Cup Final. They’ve spent more time chasing the puck than actually setting up and applying pressure on the Devils.
“I think it’s one of those things you should stay focused on,” team captain Dustin Brown said. “Our percentage is not going to be good regardless, but we have opportunities ahead of us on the power play.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter also didn’t seem overly concerned.
“I think, first off, just because the technology,” Sutter said when asked why the Kings have struggled so often on the power play during the playoffs. “It’s pre-scouted right down to the inch. I think sometimes that can be an overload, too.
“I think penalty-killing becomes such a premium because it is part of the defense. Usually, the Final and the playoffs are lower scoring. Those instances get so emphasized by coaching staffs. There’s not much secret in it. Ever.”
The first two games of the Stanley Cup Final haven’t been decided in overtime since 1951 when all five games of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ victory over the Montreal Canadiens needed extra time to settle the issue.