NEWARK, N.J. -- Zach Parise sat his locker, head hung low, recounting how close he and his teammates came to grabbing a late lead Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night at Prudential Center.
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 14
SOG: 71 | +/-: -5
With the score tied 1-1 early in the third period, the Devils' captain had a bouncing puck find his stick at the left side of the net with Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick far out of position at the opposite post. Parise didn't get all of the puck, but got enough of it to direct toward the net. However, instead of the Devils taking their first lead of the game, Quick got his stick on it.
Parise swept the puck into the net off the ensuing chaotic scramble in the crease, but he did so illegally -- with his glove.
What could Parise have done differently with such a golden opportunity?
"I could've put it in," Parise said.
That was just one of the many great chances the Devils had to break the tie, but their failures in crucial situations left them to lament what could've been after Anze Kopitar scored 8:13 into overtime to give the Kings a 2-1 victory and 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"We had a couple open ones in the third period; a couple good ones in overtime too," Parise said. "We couldn't put them in."
Parise's lost battle with a hopping puck preceded a similar missed chance a few minutes later from defenseman Mark Fayne.
A fortunate bounce led to Fayne's chance off a rush with Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter, but a bad bounce helped take it away. A wild ricochet left Fayne alone at the right post, but he was unable to corral the jumping bean and pushed the puck wide of the net.
"I was just trying to get up in the rush and I saw [Steve Bernier] coming down the wing," Fayne said. "We practice a lot shooting far pad and I was hoping he did it. He dropped it to [Ryan Carter] and he made a nice shot and it just kind of hopped up last second. I got a little bit of it, but not as much I would've liked to."
"It's definitely tough knowing if one of those go in, then it would've been a win for us. But it's also encouraging that we had those opportunities. We know if we keep playing hard, keep pressing then we'll get some of those bounces."
Forward David Clarkson also found himself alone with the puck during the second period after taking a great cross-ice pass from Ilya Kovalchuk, but the puck slid off his stick before he could get a shot on net.
In overtime, it was Kovalchuk's turn to shake his head at coming so close to giving the Devils a victory.
The Devils were generating pressure throughout overtime, but had only two shots on net to show for it. They could've had a third -- and perhaps a win -- but Kovalchuk decided to defer from between the circles with the puck on his stick, trying to make the perfect pass to the right post.
After the game, Kovalchuk expressed regret about not pulling the trigger.
"I probably should've taken it to the net," Kovalchuk said. "You know, should've, would've. We're going to put the past behind us and get ready for Game 2."
The Devils played what Kovalchuk said was their worst game of the playoffs, registering only 17 shots in 68 minutes. Some players said the fact they played so poorly and still had a chance to win was a positive; others said missing out on so many chances to win or take the lead.
Defenseman Bryce Salvador said he won't even think about how close they came, instead turning his attention to Game 2 on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
"A loss is a loss," Salvador said. "At the end of the day, we're not happy with the loss. But we did have our chances. Sometimes it doesn't go your way. You don't over-analyze it. We could've easily buried some of those chances, but hey, it didn't happen tonight. So I think the most important thing to take from this is we're ready for Game 2. We need to make sure we execute."
Even if the Devils had found a second goal, coach Peter DeBoer would've enjoyed the outcome, but not how his team performed.
"It would have been nice to get a bounce," DeBoer said. "But I don't believe we deserved to win tonight. That's the bottom line. That's what happened. If we had have won, we would have been sneaking one out."