The theme of the day from the Devils’ and Kings’ camps Thursday — one night after Los Angeles took a 1-0 series lead — was improvement.
The Devils want to improve their overall game following their third Game 1 loss in four playoff series this spring, while the Kings want to fine tune the details of their game.
“We didn’t play at our best. We were a little nervous in the first period, a little tentative. 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,” Travis Zajac said about the Devils’ 2-1 overtime loss.
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The Devils generated only eight shots in the first 40 minutes, and did not record a shot on goal in the second period until 14:30 had expired. Yet the Devils were a Mark Fayne shank away from possibly winning the series opener.
“We felt that we missed an opportunity because we were able to hang around against this team, you know, not playing our best game. Still having a chance to win, that makes us feel pretty good that we can play better, be a little bit more successful,” Zajac said. “We were watching a little bit.”
The Kings weren’t exactly reveling in their ninth road win in nine road playoff games. Instead, they were focused on improving minute aspects.
“I think execution of little plays [need fixing]. We made a couple turnovers in our ‘D’ zone. That can’t happen if we want to continue to win. It’s just really cleaning up little plays coming out of our zone,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “This time of year, everything is detail-oriented. It’s not about making the big play; it’s about making all the little ones.”
The news of Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement reverberated around the hockey world yesterday.
The Prudential Center was no exception.
“It’s a sad day for hockey,” Johan Hedberg said. He is one of three Swedish players on the Devils, along with defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Adam Larsson. “[Lidstrom is] probably one of the, if not the best, Swedish player to ever play the game.”
All three Devils said they idolized the future Hall of Famer. Drafted in the third round of the 1989 by the Red Wings, Lidstrom played 20 seasons in Detroit. During his career, he won seven Norris trophies as the league’s best defenseman and was an 11-time All-Star. Lidstrom was a key member of Detroit’s Cup-winning teams in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008, including being named the Conn Smythe Award winner in 2002.
“He’s been an icon in Sweden for so long,” Tallinder said. “Two decades is a long time playing in the best league in the world. The things he has accomplished are remarkable. In my eyes, he’s the best Swedish player we’ve had over here. No offense to [Peter] Forsberg and [Mats] Sundin. Four Stanley Cups [and] seven Norris trophies, that says it all.”
Follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman throughout the Stanley Cup final.