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Devils in trouble after Game 1 loss Print
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Written by Frank Seravalli   
Friday, 01 June 2012 00:52

Yes, the Devils have been behind early before in the postseason, but the fact that Los Angeles was not at their best on Wednesday and still came away victorious could be cause for concern.

Frank SeravalliNEWARK, N.J. – Just a few minutes after blindly setting up Anze Kopitar for the Game 1 overtime winner with a no-look pass that would make Rucker Park ballers blush, Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams stood in front of his locker with his arms stretched out in relaxation.

Williams tried to bury his smile, but he simply couldn’t resist.

“It’s not a dream,” Williams said. “We’ve got something good going here, but … it’s one game. We know it’s going to be an extremely tough series. If we can keep going, it will be a heck of a story. If we lose, it will be a heck of a collapse.”

The “tough series” talk is a prerequisite in the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially after winning Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

But it’s almost as if Williams had to convince himself that his words were true, that the Kings really may have a tough series on their hands for the first time all spring. The truth is that they just haven’t.

Yet.

Yes, it was just one game. Yes, the New Jersey Devils lost the first game in each of their previous two series. But … this one just feels different.

No matter which way you look at this Cup final matchup, the Devils are now in a world of trouble after that Game 1 overtime loss. It was a game that New Jersey surely could have won – and Mark Fayne probably cried himself to sleep after flubbing that third period empty net attempt.

The truth is that the Kings didn’t play a very sound hockey game following an eight-day layoff, yet they still found a way to win. Los Angeles took the Devils’ best punch and countered with a sudden death knell.

All of that led to rumblings in the Devils’ locker room that they had maybe played their “worst game of the playoffs” thus far. They say they see clear and obvious fixes to the problem.

“We had a lot of different issues,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said on Thursday. “You know what; I can’t box this up and wrap this in a nice little package for you. Some of them, you have to give credit for what they did. Some of them were self-inflicted.

“The word is ‘execution’ for me. Our execution was poor in a lot of areas.”

That thinking, that the Devils will somehow right their ship in time for Saturday night’s Game 2 at Prudential Center, is a fair one.

But in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with two days off between games, as much as the Devils say they’re going to improve, the Kings are saying the same thing in their own in-house meetings.

To think that Los Angeles played its best game on Wednesday is just plain wrong.

The Kings are a perfect 9-0 on the road in the postseason for a reason. They’ve trailed for just 58:08 in those nine road games, a little more than 10 percent of the total 570:12 they’ve played.

In Game 1, the Devils accounted for a full 28:52 of that chunk, nearly five percent of the Kings’ total time trailing in the playoffs on the road.

And they still lost.Ryan Carter

“We anticipated them,” DeBoer said. “They were there. We got through them with little damage. We got into overtime in the first game with a chance to win. We’ve got to move forward now.”

The Devils say now that there are no significant changes coming. The problem is that the biggest changes will be coming in the Kings cleaning up their act. That’s a scary proposition – with the very real possibility of sitting on the plane for five hours to play in a series that is already over.

“You know, we’ve been tested throughout these playoffs in situations where we’ve been behind in a series and things like that,” Devils forward Ryan Carter said. “I anticipate this being no different. We learn from the last game, move forward.”

Frank Seravalli covers the Flyers for the Philadelphia Daily News. On Twitter: @DNFlyers 

Photos by Getty Images

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Last Updated on Monday, 04 June 2012 18:24