NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils met their enemies in their opening-game loss to Kings on Wednesday night and they were right in the mirror. After superb effort that allowed them to survive a seventh-game overtime against Florida, outskate hot Philadelphia and thwart the rival Rangers, New Jersey must now rebound from a well-earned defeat in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. "Honestly we didn't deserve to win," veteran Devils forward Patrik Elias said after his team's 2-1 overtime loss. "You need to have all 20 guys going in the Stanley Cup finals and we just didn't have that."
No, the Devils offered token resistance against Los Angeles, which is now 9-0 on the road in the playoffs, and still had a chance to win. New Jersey managed just one goal and 18 shots against the bigger, stronger and more resourceful Kings. Through 33 minutes, the Devils had just five shots on goal and were consistently unable to utilize a forecheck to bother L.A.'s breakout plays. Granted, many of those went through the center of the defensive zone, quite unlike the Rangers' more traditional scheme of working the puck up their own sideboards, but for one night, the adjustments, simple or complex, were beyond them.
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"Not good," said sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, who recorded just one shot on goal and was certainly among the missing. "You don't win in this league like that." New Jersey's top sniper seemed tentative when he had the puck in the Kings' zone and either passed up shots or failed to generate a scoring chance for someone else. "Probably a couple of times I should haven't chosen to shoot and I decided to pass," he said. "We have been through this before; bad result for Game one and then we play better."
The Devils can take solace in that they lost their opening games against the Flyers and Rangers. But, to a man, the Devils accepted their fate, especially based on an uninspiring start. "I thought we were very nervous in the first period, the way we played," said Brodeur. "We made some turnovers. Too many. I thought we panicked with the puck."
Consider the Devils actually needed the Kings' help to score on Wednesday. After Colin Fraser gave the Kings a first-period lead, New Jersey needed a friendly bounce to knot the score with 1:12 left in the second period. Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick stopped an initial point shot from Devils' defenseman Anton Volchenkov, but with Elias driving to the net, L.A. defenseman Slava Voynov inadvertently knocked the puck into the net with his chest as he was trying to defend Elias.
The Devils appeared to score the winner in the third period, when the puck trickled into the Kings' goal after a scramble at the goalmouth, but officials correctly waived off the goal, ruling that after he had been knocked to the ice, New Jersey's Zach Parise shoved the puck into the net with his hand.
With the Devils' front line players struggling, defenseman Mark Fayne missed a golden chance at a wide-open net in the third. Fayne scooted in from his right-point position and sent an easy conversion rebound wide of an empty net with 10 minutes to play. "The puck was flat, but it just hopped up at the end," Fayne said. "I didn't get enough wood on it."
With eight minutes gone in the extra session, the Devils then overcompensated on one side of the ice, enabling L.A.'s leading scorer Anze Kopitar a free path to Brodeur. Give credit to Kings' defenseman Drew Doughty, who split the gap between New Jersey's Dainus Zubrus and Bryce Salvador, enabling Kopitar to skate clear on a breakaway. "We made a little bit of a bad read," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. "We're going to have to find another level. I feel we have another level."
They will need to find it, especially against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who posted his NHL playoff-record 11th consecutive road win despite making just 17 saves. That's one more than Islander battler Billy Smith who held the previous mark. "I thought the overtime was our best stretch tonight," said Elias. "We started to get some chances. But we didn't do that enough for the whole game and you can't expect to win like that. We still had a chance to win in overtime with a very average effort, but we have to be a lot better."