NEWARK -- Advantage, Kings. It doesn't matter that you're the No. 8 seed if you keep finding ways to win away from home, and Los Angeles grabbed the lead in the Stanley Cup Finals on Anze Kopitar's breakaway goal 8:13 into overtime for a 2-1 win over the Devils in Game 1 Wednesday night.
The win was the Kings' 13th in 15 playoff games and made them a perfect nine for nine on the road, giving them a 1-0 series edge in a game that was neither team's best.
"Every time you go on the road, you need a team effort," said Kopitar, who benefited from two Devils defenders going to Justin Williams near the boards in center ice. Williams passed to Kopitar cruising alone in the middle and he swept in on Martin Brodeur, beating the Devils goaltender with a patient move to end it. "We showed it again tonight."
The Devils had the better of the play in overtime after a game of fits and starts. They went 14:30 of the second period without a shot on goal, had just nine through two periods and ended up with 18 shots.
Light-scoring defenseman Mark Fayne had a golden chance alone at the side of a yawning net with 9:27 to go in the third, but he missed the goal by more than a foot trying to handle a bouncing puck.
"It would have been nice to get a bounce," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said, "but I don't believe we deserved to win tonight. That's the bottom line."
The game between two opposite-coast teams figured to have some sort of feeling-out process, but the first two periods were as awkward as a freshmen social. The Kings looked like a team that hadn't played in more than a week and had flown 2,500 miles two days earlier; the Devils looked like a team unaccustomed to playing without the furious start they had every step of the Rangers series.
The Kings grabbed the lead at 9:56 of the first, but it wasn't any of their headliners. Instead, their fourth line took charge, with rookie Jordan Nolan bumping Andy Greene off the puck on the forecheck behind the Devils net and feeding Colin Fraser in front. Fraser slid a shot between Brodeur's legs for the opening goal.
"We came out a little slower than we wanted to," Kopitar said, "but those guys [on the fourth line] probably had one of their best games of the playoffs. They got us going in the first."
After the Devils stumbled through the first 15 minutes of the second period, barely able to complete two consecutive passes, they did get at least one good bounce. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick turned aside Anton Volchenkov's soft point shot, but Quick directed it off defenseman Slava Voynov's chest and the puck caromed back into the goal with 1:12 left in the second.
In the third, the Devils had a couple of good chances to take the lead. Zach Parise fumbled a pinballed puck that landed at his feet with Quick out of position, leading to a scrum that ended with the puck in the net at 3:58. But referee Dan O'Halloran clearly saw Parise swipe the puck into the net with his hand and waved off the goal. Video review quickly confirmed O'Halloran's call.
Fayne had his chance off an odd-man rush a few minutes later. Brodeur, who finished with 23 saves, made two of his best within seconds of one another with 7:30 left in regulation, stopping Drew Doughty down the slot and then Dustin Penner off the wing.
"There wasn't much going for either team," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It's tight quarters out there."
Not until Kopitar stayed in the middle of the ice as Bryce Salvador and Dainius Zubrus charged Williams along the boards between the benches. "I was yelling for the puck, I'm not sure if he heard me but he made a great pass, right to my tape," Kopitar said. "We maybe didn't have the start we wanted here, but we found a way."