NEWARK, NJ — Captain Zach Parise answered each question with simmering frustration, knowing that Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was there for the New Jersey Devils to claim. Squandered opportunities and a shift away from their formula for success in the previous three rounds led to the 2-1 Los Angeles Kings victory in overtime.
"We have to be better in pretty much all areas," Parise said. "We made it way too easy for them. We turned the puck over at the blue line. We didn't dump it right. It wasn't our best game."
The Kings attempted 54 shots against Martin Brodeur, limiting the Devils to 34. In a series that many felt would be won or lost on the forecheck, neither team was able to establish dominance. But the stalemate hurt the Devils more than LA, as Jon Quick and the Kings' defense limited chances and cleared rebounds.
"We have to get back to our game. We know what makes us successful. When we're aggressive on the forecheck, we're a pretty hard team to play against. And when we're not, then we're not that good," said defenseman Andy Greene.
The limited opportunities the Devils had were golden: Two open net shots for David Clarkson that missed; Parise, in a goalmouth scramble, putting the puck in with his glove; and perhaps most glaring, this Mark Fayne miss in the third period that would have given the Devils the lead:
"I was focused on the puck and just misread," said Fayne.
Like the rest of the Devils defense, Fayne learned about the Kings in the teams' first meeting since Darryl Sutter took over as head coach.
"They're a real tough team to play down low. They've got such tough forwards and good speed. We can't give them any chances," he said. "But also, we know we can play against them down low too."
The key to succeeding in the Kings zone, according to several Devils: Limit the chances Quick has to handle the puck. Despite some chaotic moments when Quick acted as a third D-man, the Kings' goalie still managed to short-circuit more Devils chances than he created.
"We need to get more pucks behind their D and not give Quick chances to play. We had trouble getting our forecheck going. In the last two games, their goalie doesn't touch the puck," said Brodeur, referencing Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. "Now we have a goalie who touches it. Maybe it's a change we have to make to create some offense."
Said forward Ryan Carter, who tied Parise with three shots on goal for the team lead: "I don't think we want Jonathan Quick to play the puck at all. That's an extra man on the break out, just like Marty with us. We have to find a way to keep it away from him on the forecheck, because so often he breaks it."
The Devils have now lost three straight Game 1s. They have two days to regroup before Game 2 on Saturday night. They'll look back at a game that put them down in the championship series, and an effort Coach Pete DeBoer said simply wasn't good enough.
"I don't think we deserved to win tonight. If we had, it would have been sneaking one out."