NEWARK, N.J. – The New Jersey Devils are in danger of becoming the latest team to be steamrolled by the Los Angeles Kings.

The Devils played one of their worst games of the postseason in dropping the series opener 2-1 in overtime Wednesday night, and can’t afford another subpar effort.

Lose two games at home to a team that has posted a 9-0 record on the road this postseason, and the guys who lug around hockey’s biggest prize might start shining it in earnest after Saturday night’s game at the Prudential Center.

The situation is desperate for Coach Peter DeBoer’s team. While they missed chances to win the opener, they also made a slew of mistakes that ranged from bad dump-ins of pucks, being tentative on the ice, failing to shoot when the shot was there, and leaving the Kings open. The most glaring error came in the overtime when Anze Kopitar scored on a breakaway.

The problems can be fixed. The bad news is that the Kings weren’t exactly at their best either and still won.

And if you’re a Devil, here’s a scary fact. The Kings have played some of their best hockey in Game 2s of their three previous series, beating Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix by a combined 13-4 margin to take commanding 2-0 series leads back to Los Angeles each time.

“The comforting thing for me is when I listen to the comments of our players last night, they were dead-on,” DeBoer said. “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, you know, as a group we’ve got to bring more to win this time of year.”

The Devils carried the play in the third period and had two great chances to take the lead. Captain Zach Parise failed to put a bouncing puck in the net four minutes into the period and defenseman Mark Fayne missed a wide-open net with roughly 10 minutes left in regulation.

Kings captain Dustin Brown said that the Darryl Sutter-coached team has done a good job of not being satisfied after winning Game 1.

“In Game 2, it’s been our starts,” Brown said. “We’ve jumped on teams early, most noticeably against St. Louis, we had a 4-0 lead after the first and that goes a long way. Some teams get a win and they are satisfied. This group hasn’t been and it goes a long way when you come out in Game 2 and really put it to them.

“It’s demoralizing.”

The Devils have done an outstanding job of battling back from 1-0 deficits against the Flyers and Rangers. They won four straight after losing the opener in overtime against Philadelphia and 4 of 5 against the rival Rangers. This is a different team, though. The Kings are playing better than any team in the NHL now, posting a 13-2 postseason record.

With the arena scheduled to hold concerts by the British rock band, Radiohead, on Thursday and tonight, DeBoer gave his players Thursday off. He and his coaching staff watched the game again and worked on corrections.

“The game starts in your own end, breaking out clean, getting through the neutral zone with speed, putting the puck in the right place, running good forecheck routes, keeping pucks alive with pinches,” he said. “There’s no clean answer to it. We’ve got to be a little sharper in all our areas.”

Sutter gave his players the day off, as well. The players who did not participate in Game 1, did skate, however.

If there has been a key to the Kings’ record success on the road in the postseason, it might be scoring the first goal. They have only trailed for 58:08 in nine road games.

“We have been focused in on starts and our starts have been pretty good,” Kopitar said. “It always helps when you are not playing catch-up hockey.”


Bob Hartley returned to the NHL as coach of the Calgary Flames. He succeeds Brent Sutter, who left the team in April after three seasons. Hartley coached Colorado for five seasons and won a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001. The Columbus Blue Jackets signed center Derek MacKenzie to a two-year contract. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired after 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, ending one of the best careers in NHL history. He won four Stanley Cups and won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman seven times.