NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer listened to what his players told the media following the team’s 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night -- and he was pleased with what he heard.
“The comforting thing for me is when I listen to the comments of our players [Wednesday night], they were dead-on,” DeBoer said Thursday. “We weren’t good enough. We have to be better.
“We got over the early game jitters. We started to play a little bit better. But, as a group, we’ve got to bring more to win this time of year.”
The Devils went into the series hoping to get pucks to the net and traffic in front of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, but they had only nine shots through the first two periods -- 18 overall.
Mark Fayne had an open net, but failed to bury a bouncing rebound in the third. David Clarkson ripped a shot high and wide in the first. Zach Parise failed to pound a puck home in front in the final frame.
Right before Anze Kopitar’s breakaway game-winner, Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador were caught out of position.
“You know the word is ‘execution’ for me. Our execution was poor in a lot of areas,” DeBoer said.
His played explained why.
“I think it was nerves, jitters, [the] ice. I don’t know,” Ryan Carter said. “You can point to a couple different areas. I think at times we were careless with the puck a little bit and got away from what got us where we’re at, turning it over and not making the plays that we’re used to making. That created a little momentum for them, some room. You can’t give that up this time of year.”
“We didn’t play our best,” Travis Zajac added. “We were a little nervous and tentative in the first period. You could see that. We weren’t making plays. We were throwing the puck away a little too much, not moving our feet and getting on the forecheck like we usually do. We felt like we missed an opportunity because we were able to hang around against this team.
“But the fact that we didn’t play our best game and we still had a chance to win makes us feel pretty good that we can play better and be more successful in Game 2.”
The Devils came away impressed by what they saw from the Kings, who improved to 9-0 on the road in the playoffs.
“We knew coming in that they were a big, physical team,” Zajac said. “They were good in the offensive zone, cycling pucks and controlling the play. They have some D-men that can jump in the play and create chances. And they have a good goalie. I think we saw all that [Wednesday night].
Added Adam Henrique: “They keep coming at you, they roll all four lines and they’re a deep team.”
So what do the Devils need to do better?
“We’ve gotta start from the beginning and get pucks behind their D,” Zajac said. “They stand up well, they got back pressure all the time from their forwards, so for us, we’ll have to get pucks behind them and go to work down low.
“I think in the other series against Philly and the Rangers, we were able to create some offense off our cycles, going high to low to the points and getting traffic and getting shots on net, and we definitely didn’t do enough of that [Wednesday night]. So we’ll have to execute in that part of our game, and hopefully everything else will take care of itself.”
The Devils have lost Game 1 in their last series, so they aren’t ready to panic -- yet.