Devils in familiar spot after dropping series opener
NEWARK, N.J. -- If the New Jersey Devils, to a man, didn't seem overly alarmed by their 2-1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, it's for good reason.
The players on this team have been in similar situations.
The Devils have dropped the opening game in each of their past three series in this year's postseason, and after winning the opener against the Florida Panthers in the first round they faced 2-1 and 3-2 deficits before winning consecutive elimination games to advance.
New Jersey may have to wrest back home-ice advantage from Los Angeles after Anze Kopitar's breakaway goal 8:13 into the extra period, but it's a challenge the Devils are more than ready to undertake.
"The good news is we started in the same hole against Philly, we started in the same hole against the Rangers," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We responded to the situation in the right way the last two rounds, and I expect the same."
The mood in the locker room was more disappointed than downbeat, in part because the Devils felt they could have won with a better effort. They managed only 17 shots against the Kings and goalie Jonathan Quick, going the first 14:30 of the second period without registering a shot and only collecting two in overtime.
"I think we know in our hearts and in our heads that [the Game 2 performance] will be better," said forward Patrik Elias, who assisted on Anton Volchenkov's game-tying goal late in the second period. "We have to be better. This wasn't good enough and that's the bottom line.
"This is a long road. We haven't had an easy round yet. We'll be fine. We just have to get everyone going. This is a precious time for all of us to be in this position. Yeah, you can lose, but the work ethic has to be higher."
Second-year defenseman Mark Fayne, on his first journey through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, credited the guys in the locker room who have been there before and won multiple titles -- like Elias and goaltender Martin Brodeur -- for keeping everyone's spirits up when adversity strikes.
"The veterans in our locker room really make sure we don't dwell on the past too much," Fayne said. "Patty, Marty, those guys have all been here so many times before that they just make sure the energy's positive and they know exactly what to do."
Fayne's partner on the blue line, Andy Greene, echoed those sentiments.
"I think you've got to rely on that experience," Greene said. "You can't panic here. It's going to be a long series and it's going to be up and down throughout the series. You just have to rely on the experience, rely on the older guys, and make sure we come out with a better overall game plan."
While Wednesday's defeat was treated in the locker room as no reason to panic, there's still a great deal of importance in bouncing back in Game 2 at the Prudential Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) and evening the series before heading to Los Angeles.
"The good news is we started in the same hole against Philly, we started in the same hole against the Rangers. We responded to the situation in the right way the last two rounds, and I expect the same." -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer on bouncing back after losing Game 1
The Devils have dropped two straight just once during these playoffs -- the second and third games against the Panthers. They have yet to face a two-game deficit in a series -- and doing so in the Final, with the action then shifting to what figures to be a raucous atmosphere at Staples Center, doesn't seem like an opportune time to start.
"It's an obvious thing, if you go down the first game, you have to fight really hard to get back on track," forward Alexei Ponikarovsky said. "There is no game you can waste. We know what we have to do, how we have to play against them, it's just we have to come back strong and win the next one."
Ponikarovsky pointed to New Jersey's vaunted forecheck, which gave the Flyers fits in the second round and gradually wore down the Rangers in the conference finals, as key to Saturday's game. There were occasional stretches where the Devils got it going in Game 1, but it wasn't nearly enough of a factor and the offense suffered as a result.
"Obviously we have to move a little bit faster on the forecheck, get in and keep some pucks alive," he said. "When we're doing that we create a lot of chances down low, and we got back to our game when we did it. But when they were just rimming the puck out of their end and we have to regroup and go again. We just have to do a little better job on the boards and keep those pucks alive."