Drafted in 2003 by the Flyers before developing into a star, Carter signed what he thought was a lifetime contract to stay with Philadelphia and try to return the Stanley Cup to the city that hasn't housed it in nearly four decades.
Carter probably did not think this was going to happen with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Traded to Columbus this summer as part of a shocking overhaul by Philadelphia, Carter never really settled in central Ohio. Injuries and a last-place team didn't help matters.
It has been a crazy year for Carter, so crazy that this with the Los Angeles Kings seems totally plausible. On his third team in less than 12 months, Carter might finally be home -- and might win a Stanley Cup in the process.
This could be a career-defining highlight of that journey -- an overtime goal Saturday in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final to propel his Kings to a 2-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead against the New Jersey Devils.
"Yeah, it's a pretty special moment, I think," Carter said. "Obviously, any time you get a chance to play in the Final, it's exciting. But scoring an overtime goal in Game 2, puts you up 2-0, it's pretty special."
Added Jarrett Stoll: "He's been in the media a lot, he's been in a lot of storylines. He's a great addition for our team, a lot of offense coming over to us to solidify our lineup. He makes us a lot better team. big goal. Huge goal for our team."
The game actually opened up during the overtime period, with more chances at both ends than there had been in the final two periods of regulation.
On the deciding player, Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez collected the puck in his own zone and crisply moved it to Cater at center ice. Carter corralled the pass and wheeled toward the offensive zone. He carried the puck down the right wall, and was able to get by New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene. At first, he tried to feather a pass to the far post where linemate Dustin Penner was waiting, but defenseman Mark Fayne came sliding across the ice and thwarted the attempt.
The puck went behind the net, so Carter kept going. He picked it up again and curled around a mass of bodies toward the high slot. As his momentum was carrying him toward the right wall, he had just enough room to snap off a shot, and he flung against the grain toward the left post. Penner provided a 245-pound screen in front of goaltender Martin Brodeur, and the shot was in just the right spot.
"He always seems to be in the right place in the right time," Justin Williams said. "Tonight he worked for his opportunity. He shot around the net and hung with it, and made a great shot."
Added Carter: "Playoff hockey, you put it on the net as much as you can. It's usually a cheesy goal. But [Penner] did a great job of getting right in front of Marty there. To be honest, I don't even know if he saw around [Penner], or if he saw the shot."
Carter has 220 goals in his NHL career, and 18 of those have come in the playoffs. He scored 46 in one regular season season, and had three in one game earlier in this postseason. He's won a Calder Cup, and was two wins from the Stanley Cup two seasons ago with the Flyers.
There's no way the past 12 months have gone as scripted for Carter, but as coach Darryl Sutter said, "He's a goal scorer. You're counting on him to score a big goal."
This one certainly qualifies.
"I think this is by far the biggest," Carter said. "I think it's my first playoff overtime goal. It's a huge one. It's a big one for the team. Gets us a two-game lead here. Gets us where we wanted to be coming in here."
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