NEWARK, N.J. (AP)—After watching somewhat of a no-show performance by his Carolina Hurricanes in the opening game of the playoffs, Paul Maurice was frank in saying that his post-game comments weren’t all hugs and kisses.
Maurice wasn’t totally negative either after the New Jersey Devils outworked the Hurricanes 4-1 on Wednesday night to take the lead in the best-of-7 series that resumes on Friday.
“We did not prepare that way,” Maurice said Thursday after Carolina skated less than an hour at the Prudential Center. “We got a good dose of playoff hockey handed right to us last night and that’s never something that you enjoy. They were really good. That’s the bottom line. They played a heck of a game.”
The bottom line is that the Hurricanes didn’t play anything like the team won 9 of its last 11 regular-season games.
Their errors were blatant.
Defenseman Tim Gleason jumped on the ice too early in the opening minute and drew a penalty for too many players on the ice.
Leading goal scorer Eric Staal was outworked by Zach Parise in the corner early in the second period for the Devils’ second goal, and veteran Rod Brind’Amour had his pocket picked by Brian Gionta later in the period, setting up Patrik Elias’ tally.
“We played a regular-season type of game yesterday and they played a playoff type of game and that was the difference,” Carolina right wing Tuomo Ruutu said. “It was a big difference, and it is a big difference. We can see the result. I mean it wasn’t pretty yesterday. There is no time to waste. We have to be ready for tomorrow.”
Ward echoed the feeling although he waited almost 14 hours after the game to express it. He was abandoned by his team several times in goal and he refused to talk about it after the game.
He calmly discussed it Thursday.
“I don’t think it is a time to panic, but at the same time we realize we have to play better,” Ward said. “I am confident that we will be able to rebound and play well. We’ve shown these last couple of months the potential that we can play. Like I said, last night is over and done with. We have to move on, that’s the beauty of a best-of-7 series. Tomorrow, I believe we will be much better.”
Maurice said that his team’s biggest problem was not moving as a five-man unit, either on offense or defense. Too many times, the Hurricanes tried to force passes into areas that the Devils were taking away.
“In the playoffs it’s not about not wanting it,” Maurice said. “It about getting it out of their bodies. It’s in their heads. They know what they want to do and I’m trying to create an environment for them to do it. The problem is there is another team doing the same thing on the other side, and they did a better job than us last night.”
Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner refused to say his club dominated the opener, noting they only led 1-0 after the first period.
“One game doesn’t do a lot,” he said. “It puts you a step closer.”
Parise expects much better from Carolina on Friday.
“It’s a good team, a really good team,” he said. “They are here for a reason. Everyone expects them to have a great game tomorrow night, so we have to be ready, too.”
One key for the Devils was the play of the line of John Madden, Jay Pandolfo and Brandon Shanahan. It had the checking assignment on Staal, Eric Cole and Ruutu and limited Carolina’s top line to four shots.
“It’s going to be harder,” Madden said. “Friday is going to be harder. Sunday is going to be harder. It’s just going to get harder. Even though we won Game 1, we have to figure how to win Game 2, and when that is over win Game 3, until the series is done. That’s the mentality we need to have.
“I don’t think they had their best game and I am expecting a lot different tomorrow,” Madden added.