One of the countless enjoyable aspects of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is that, while it’s traditionally the stage when the stars shine their brightest, it’s also a time when unlikely heroes are thrust into the limelight.
For the Anaheim Ducks, a prime example came in last night’s Game 3 against the Kings in the form of Ben Lovejoy, the (usually) stay-at-home defenseman who had just five goals during the regular season. But there was Lovejoy last night, slinging a wicked wrist shot top corner late in the game to give the Ducks a two-goal lead that would ultimately prove invaluable down the final stretch.
On a 2-on-1 rush, Lovejoy took in a pass from Andrew Cogliano, then gave a little fake with the puck before whipping a picture-perfect shot over goalie Jonathan Quick’s glove. Better yet, here’s how the always-engaging Lovejoy described it this morning during a team media session at their team hotel in downtown LA.
“I was able to get the puck before the red line. If I had gotten it after the red line, I absolutely would have dumped it in, up [a goal] at that point in the game,” Lovejoy said. “I passed it to Cogliano, and was able to catch it on a 2-on-1 break. I was looking to pass it back to him, but the defenseman was able to take that pass away. So I shot it as hard as I could, and it went in.”
With Lovejoy’s help at the other end of the ice, Anaheim was ultimately able to hang on for a 3-2 victory, after which Lovejoy called the goal “Easily No. 1” in his NHL career. "I don't score many goals,” he said, “so they're all very, very, very special. I don’t score enough to be picky though. They’re all fun. “
While Lovejoy only had a handful of goals in his 78 regular season games, this is his second big one of the playoffs. He had a one-timer off a Teemu Selanne feed in Game 6 of the first round in Dallas, pulling the Ducks within a goal in a game they would ultimately snatch away in overtime.
Lovejoy said he has not watched last night’s the goal again, but he was asked this morning to grade his post-goal celebration, in which he went to one knee and managed a modest fist-pump before being mobbed by teammates.
“It was my first pump ever, so I was hoping I didn’t mess it up,” he said with a smile. “I wanted it to look natural, like I’ve been there before.” He then paused and added, “Which I have not.”
The win was vital for a Ducks team that had gone into Staples Center last night down 2-0 in the series, despite controlling play for the majority of Games 1 and 2 at Honda Center.
“Our backs were against the wall,” Lovejoy said. “We played some good hockey the first two games, but it wasn’t perfect. We weren’t able to play a full 60 minutes, and they were. We knew that we could be successful against that team, and last night we came out and played a very smart hockey game. We need to do that to be successful against a team like that.”
Lovejoy knows the Ducks will need more of the same to even this series, and they will get that chance in tomorrow’s all-important Game 4 at Staples Center.
“We know going down 2-nothing isn’t the smartest way to win a series,” Lovejoy said. “But last night, we just wanted to win one. We want them to know that we’re putting up a fight, that we’re going to ready, that ‘Maybe this Ducks team can beat us.’ That was the goal for last night, and tomorrow will absolutely be a pivotal game for us.”