Devils blame nerves for slow start to Game 1

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The New Jersey Devils didn’t exactly get the start they were looking for in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. They only managed five first-period shots on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and, in general, looked nothing like the team that took it to the Rangers in the conference finals.

Today, the Devils tried to explain what happened last night at the Prudential Center. See if you can spot the common theme.

Travis Zajac: “We were a little nervous in the first period, a little tentative. You could see that. We weren’t making plays. We were throwing the puck away a little too much. We weren’t moving our feet and getting on the forecheck like we usually do.”

Adam Henrique: “I think, like Travis said, maybe we were a little nervous coming out at the start of the game. We were throwing pucks away. We weren’t hanging onto the pucks, making plays.”

Ryan Carter: “I think it was nerves, jitters, ice. I don’t know. 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.”

Peter DeBoer: “It doesn’t surprise me we dealt with some [nerves] early in the game. I thought, as the game progressed, we kind of got through that. Now that’s in the rearview mirror and we can just play.”

Of course, credit has to be given to New Jersey’s opponent. A lot of teams have looked careless with the puck against Los Angeles in the playoffs. The Kings employ an aggressive forecheck that leaves opposition defensemen little time to make plays in their own end.

For example…

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Looking ahead to Game 2 on Saturday, Zajac said the Devils need to establish their own forecheck.

“We got to start from the beginning getting pucks behind their D,” he said. “They stand up well. They got back pressure all the time from their forwards. For us, we have to get pucks behind them and go to work.

“You look at the other series, Philly, Rangers, we were able to create some offense from off our cycles, from going high to low, to the points, getting traffic, getting shots in net. We definitely didn’t do enough of that yesterday.”

And if they don’t enough of that Saturday, they’ll travel to Los Angeles down two games to none and needing to win four of the next five games.