Getty ImagesNEWARK, NJ — "That's a very good team. They make you work. They play really structured, really well defensively. They don't give you a lot of quality opportunities, but we do have some quality opportunities throughout the game and we have to put them in."
The preceding description applied to the New Jersey Devils during most of their 2012 playoff run. But after their 2-1 loss in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, that's how captain Zach Parise defined the Los Angeles Kings.
In Eastern Conference wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, the Devils cracked those teams open, dissected them and took away everything they excelled at in the playoffs. They haven't solved the Los Angeles Kings, going down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final with consecutive overtime losses on home ice.
They believe they can, which is equal parts defiance and delusion. But the Kings are, by far, the toughest challenge the Devils' have faced in the 2012 playoffs.
"Frustration … maybe some guys are feeling it. But as a whole, you can't let that affect you," said goalie Marty Brodeur. "You can be disappointed about some of the performances, some of the breaks that we're getting. But at the end of the day, we're still alive. We're still in great shape to go out and do something amazing."
The Devils attempted 67 shots, with 33 finding Jon Quick's net. He turned aside 32 of them, closing down the quality chances the Devils earned against the Kings' stingy defense.
"It wasn't because we weren't working. We worked hard. Did a lot of good things. Just having trouble scoring. Just like Game 1," said Parise.
"It sucks. But we can't do anything about it now."
The Devils have scored two goals in two games: One that went in off an LA Kings player, and another that fourth-liner Ryan Carter deflected home in Game 2. Nothing from their big guns; more critically, nothing on the power play, which has gone 0-for-6 while managing five shots on goal.
Ilya Kovalchuk called the Devils' power play "embarrassing." Said Parise: "The puck movement wasn't great. They do a good job of pressuring. They jump you at the right time when you don't make flat, tape-to-tape passes."
The Kings have done to the Devils what the Devils have done to everyone else: Limited the forecheck; limited the quality chances; excelled on their own forecheck; gotten great goaltending; scored first; and, in overtime, finding a hero to end the game — Kopitar in Game 1, Carter in Game 2.
The Devils had bounced back to win Game 2 against the Rangers and Flyers. Coach Peter DeBoer made adjustments, the Devils responded, and then went on to win the series.
They had more spark against the Kings in Game 2. But the adjustments, both before and during the game by DeBoer, didn't lead to victory.
"We decided the end of two periods to shuffle some lines," said DeBoer. "It was just a shot in the arm to try to find a goal. We haven't scored enough, obviously."
The longer this series goes, the more echoes there are from the Kings to the 1995 New Jersey Devils Cup team. The way they dominated higher-seeded foes. The way they controlled games. The way the won the close ones. The way Drew Doughty channeled Scott Niedermayer's Game 2 goal at Detroit with his Game 2 goal at New Jersey. Above all else, the way they won on the road.
Among the awards and accolades listed in the Devils' dressing room are their 10 road wins in 1995, an NHL record.
Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final was the Kings' 10th road win of the postseason, with no losses.
If the Kings are to surpass the Devils' road wins record, ironically, the Devils will have to win a road game in LA.
Brodeur believes they will if they catch some breaks.
"We're there. It's just disappointing we can't score the big goal or do the little things that allow us to be where we're at," he said.
"With a little luck on our side, we could be up 2-0."