Devils confident despite 0-2 series deficit
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- To win the Stanley Cup, the New Jersey Devils have to win four of the next five games against a team that has lost only twice in 16 games this postseason.
The New Jersey Devils are not defining their dour predicament in those terms.
"We look at it like we just need to win one game," Dainius Zubrus told NHL.com Sunday afternoon after the Devils skated at the Kings' practice facility. "Honestly, I don't look past that."
Fair enough. It's unlikely anyone would actually think the Devils were looking past Game 3, which is Monday night at Staples Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) to focus on the bigger picture. Teams don't do that at this time of the year, especially when they're facing a two-game deficit in the Stanley Cup Final.
Heck, the Kings aren't even looking at the bigger picture, that they are just two wins away from their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, and they're the team that is up 2-0.
"It takes four games to win a series, not two, not three, not one," Ilya Kovalchuk said. "They were good enough to win the first two, but we'll see what is going to happen in the next couple of games."
Nevertheless, the facts are the facts -- the Devils have to win twice as many games against the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final than the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes combined to win in the first three rounds. They have only five games to do it, and they firmly believe that'll be enough, that they can make what now looks like a miracle happen.
It starts with how they played in Game 2. While they weren't at their best, they weren't far from it.
The power play didn't click (it was 0-for-4 with three shots on goal), but the penalty kill was 2-for-2 and gave the Kings only one shot on goal. They had their forecheck going, and it produced a goal. They had more chances on Jonathan Quick than the Kings had on Martin Brodeur through regulation.
Despite getting only the lone goal from fourth-liner Ryan Carter, the Devils still managed to get the game to overtime. For the second straight game, they had the better chances to win it in the third period. Kovalchuk hit the crossbar with 14 seconds left in regulation.
"We did a lot of good things (Saturday) night," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We could have easily been on the other side of that game. The self-analysis is, yes, our power play has to get a little bit better, yes there are some areas that we have to get a little bit better at. But over 60 minutes, we played a real solid game."
That they didn't win is maddening, but the Devils' frustration is being masked by the belief that they are not only good enough to play with the Kings -- perhaps better suited to do it than the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes -- they are also maybe a bounce or a power-play goal away from being tied in this series or even ahead 2-0.
Brodeur said that belief bolsters the team's confidence heading into Game 3.
"We're going in the right direction," he added. "We're not getting outplayed. We're getting the chances. Quick, you've got to give him a lot of credit, he's playing well and their defense is doing the job as well, but when you're in games, that's the only thing you want. We're competing really hard. Guys are working really hard. Something has to give eventually. We just have to have that attitude."
They've had it before in these playoffs, specifically when they were down 2-1 to Florida, 1-0 to the Flyers, and 2-1 to the Rangers. They didn't make changes because of the hole they were in -- a point that DeBoer emphasized Sunday. No, they stuck with their game plan and simply tried to execute it better.
It was good enough to win three of the last four against the Panthers, four in a row against the Flyers, and three in a row against the Rangers.
"I get the sense that we really know that we can play better and we have to play better, but I still think we feel with us not being on top of our game for those first two games we had a chance to win both of them," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "This could be 1-1 right now or 2-0 in our favor, but it's not. We're in a tough spot down 2-0, but us knowing that we can play better, I don't think anyone is overly frustrated."
OK, so how can they play better?
For starters, Kovalchuk said they can simplify things on the power play, which he called "embarrassing" after Game 2.
"We tried to spin. We tried to make a pass through five guys, four guys. It's not going to happen," he said. "We just have to make the one pass and get shots to the net. I just know we can be better in that particular situation and we will be."
Parise said the Devils can support each other better when they have the puck.
"A couple of times we got outnumbered when we had the puck," he said. "If we can get that fixed it'll be a lot better for us."
Zubrus pointed to the forecheck, specifically the dump-ins.
"If you're talking forecheck, you have to put (the puck) in decent areas where we can push and quite a few times, more so in the first game, pucks went to the goalie, who plays it and they break out," Zubrus said. "Everything starts with the dump-in and (the first forward in). The second and third guys, they're just as important, but it starts with a dump-in and the first guy in."
They all feel getting a lead is important for the simple fact that they haven't had one yet in the series and the Kings aren't used to trailing in the playoffs. They've trailed for only 137 minutes over 16 playoff games (less than 14 percent of the 1,004 minutes they've played).
"To get on board early would be nice, but if it doesn't happen we can't fold because of that," Brodeur said. "That is something you have to guard against a bit, but we're pretty confident. We know we've been playing well and hopefully we'll break (Quick) somehow."
They believe they can, and that's all they are thinking about right now.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl