Mark Fayne knew the puck was heading his way and he knew Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick was out of position.
When the New Jersey defenseman went to fire a rebound into a seemingly wide-open net, an untimely bounce off the unsettled ice turned a potential go-ahead goal midway through the third period into another dose of frustration for the Eastern Conference champions.
The Devils had plenty of chances to score on Quick, but they cashed in only one in their 2-1 overtime loss to the Kings on Wednesday night. Fayne's was the most obvious opportunity lost for New Jersey, which also had a goal waved off because captain Zach Parise swept the puck in with his glove.
"I was just trying to get up into the rush," Fayne said of his blown chance. "I saw (Steve Bernier) coming down the wing. We practice a lot shooting far pad, and I was just hoping he did it. He dropped it to (Ryan Carter), and he made a nice shot. It just kind of hopped up at the last second. I got a little bit of it, but not as much as I'd like to."
Fayne has no goals and three assists in 19 playoff games this year, following a regular season in which he scored four goals and set up 13 over 82 games. The humidity inside the Prudential Center didn't do him or anyone else on the choppy ice any favors.
Parise had his prime scoring chance thwarted earlier in the third during a mad scramble in the crease. Parise tried to get at the loose puck, but couldn't get his stick freed up from the maze of bodies filling the blue paint. With no other option, Parise stuck out his left glove and shoved the puck into the open side. Unfortunately for him, it was spotted by referee Dan O'Halloran, who immediately waved his hands to signal no goal.
The play went to video review for good measure, and the sweep was picked up there, too — confirming the on-ice decision.
"It's definitely tough knowing that if one of those go in, then it would've been a win for us," Fayne said. "But also I think it's encouraging knowing that we had those opportunities. We know if we keep playing hard, keep pressing, that we'll get some of those bounces."
Many of the Devils said they were disappointed they let a seemingly winnable home game slip away, but felt Game 2 would be different if they cleaned up their mistakes.
New Jersey has trailed in all four playoff series it has played this year, including 1-0 deficits in the two previous rounds against Philadelphia and the New York Rangers. The Devils were behind 2-1 in both the first round and the conference finals, so this early hole isn't about to faze them.
"We'll never give up," forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "It's just the first game. The fun begins. It wasn't our best game at all and we know that. But give them credit, they are playing a pretty good game. They scored the big goal in the end. We'll watch the video and we'll see what we did wrong and try to eliminate those mistakes."
The Devils were given a complete day off on Thursday by coach Peter DeBoer, taking advantage of the two-day break before Game 2 on Saturday night. By then, they hope to have figured out the Kings' road mojo that has produced nine straight away wins in this postseason.
"If you have chances to score this time of year and you miss on them, yeah those are opportunities lost," Carter said. "We could've maybe ended the game there in regulation, things like that. That's huge this time of year."
The Kings also controlled the Devils' forecheck. Quick was a factor in that as well as he showed off his puck-handling skills that are very much like Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
New Jersey was limited to 18 shots.
"I don't think we want Jonathan Quick to play the puck at all," Carter said. "That's an extra man on the breakout, just like Marty with us. We've got to find a way to keep it away from him so we can get our forecheck going. So often that breaks it."
Both Kovalchuk and Carter cited the jitters as a possible explanation for the Devils' slow start in the series opener.
"It's a big game," Carter said. "It's probably the first time for a lot of us in here on this stage. Getting into a game like that in front of that crowd with that energy, I think there is going to be nerves. We maybe played that way for the first couple of minutes, but after a while we settled down."
It simply wasn't in time to hold down the Kings, who like the Devils advanced to the finals with an overtime victory in the conference clincher.
So New Jersey isn't about to panic.
"A lot of that has to do with our veterans like (Patrik Elias) and (Brodeur)," Fayne said. "Those guys have been in this situation so many times that they really keep the locker room calm and positive.
"They know what it takes to win, so we kind of just feed off them."