The Devils played poorly in Game 1 and lost. Then they played well in Game 2 and lost.
The Los Angeles Kings, continuing to make a mockery of their eighth seeding in the West, are on a record Stanley Cup roll.
Down 2-0 in the final after two heart-breaking overtime losses, the Devils fly west knowing they have to take four of five to win the series. Just keeping their head above water seems to be the challenge at hand.
"It's tough but you can't feel sorry for yourself," said New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer, who shuffled his lines as the game wore on. "We played a much better game, I knew we would respond. We did in the right way but came up one goal short."
New Jersey may need a stake or a silver bullet to slow down the Kings, who bent but did not break Saturday and got yet another heroic game from goalie Jonathan Quick.
Jeff Carter scored at 13:42 of overtime to give Los Angeles the win.
The former Flyer beat defenceman Andy Greene down the flank, fired the puck at goal and then reclaimed it as he went around the goal, circling to fire a low shot past a screened Martin Brodeur.
"It's a huge one," Carter said of the goal. "It's a big one for the team … It gets us where we wanted to be coming in here."
The win extended the Kings' record string of road wins in this post-season to 10.
The Kings opened the series Wednesday with a 2-1 overtime win, on a spectacular breakaway score by Anze Kopitar.
Games 3 and 4 are Monday and Wednesday in Los Angeles.
New Jersey outshot Los Angeles 33-32 and must feel it deserved better on the night.
"I think we weathered the storm the first period, withstood a pretty strong forecheck, made some mistakes," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. "Our goalie made some saves, same as theirs."
It's the first time in 61 years that the first two games of the final have gone to overtime. In 1951, all five games between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens went into extra time. Toronto won four of five to take the Cup.
The Kings are 4-0 in OT in the playoffs. The Devils are 4-3, including 3-2 at the Prudential Center Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk had a chance to decide it in the dying seconds of the third period but his shot bounced off the crossbar.
Defenceman Drew Doughty scored a highlight-reel first-period goal for the Kings.
The New Jersey breakthrough came at 2:59 of the third when Ryan Carter tipped in a shot from the point from Marek Zidlicky with a lot of bodies in front of Quick. It was the 10th goal of the post-season from the Devils' fourth line and the fifth for Carter.
Quick was unbeatable the rest of the way. The in-form goalie stopped pucks with every inch of his body as well as showing off his ability to do the splits in pads.
Los Angeles needed him as the Devils were on their game after an off night in the series opener. New Jersey also got a strong game in goal from 40-year-old Brodeur.
HNIC live chat Comments of the Night
"During a lull in the action, Malahat Joe wonders how many times during these playoffs Pronger has flipped Kane's Cup-winning puck in the air." — Malahat Joe
"i'm watching the game on TV but i just came on here hoping you guys at CBC can somehow relay the message to the Devils to SHOOT THE PUCK" — Guest
"I thought it was a hell of a battle," Sutter said.
"Tonight was heavy lifting … Hey, you know what, we'll have our work cut out going home," he added.
New Jersey returned to its modus operandi to start Game 2, using its speed and forecheck to pressure the Kings before a raucous towel-waving sellout crowd of 17,625 in a chilly Prudential Center.
But somehow they went to the dressing room down a goal after 20 minutes.
The Devils came out hard, pinning the Kings back, and got an early power play. But they failed to take advantage, and Brodeur had the most difficult save to make on the power play when the Kings broke out on a two-on-one.
Against the run of play, Los Angeles went ahead again as Doughty, on a glorious solo rush, evaded three Devils and snapped a low shot past Brodeur at 7:49 for his third of the playoffs. The New Jersey goalie may have been partially screened by defenceman Bryce Salvador.
Doughty picked up the puck behind his own blue-line, left David Clarkson in his dust, went by Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta and then fired the puck through Salvador and Brodeur.
"Win or lose tonight, that's a great play," Sutter said.
On the Devils bench, DeBoer looked like he had swallowed a hairball.
With Kings defenceman Willie Mitchell assessed a cross-checking penalty just seconds after the goal, Quick came up big on the power play with a nice save on Patrik Elias.
Quick had plenty to do in the first period, with lots of traffic in front of him as the Devils worked nice angles on the attack and kept the puck in the Kings zone.
Brodeur was also tested on Kings counter-attacks, but they came less often.
New Jersey, which managed just 18 shots in 68 minutes 13 seconds in Game 1, had 11 on Quick in the first period alone.
All it got them was frustration.
It marked the seventh straight road game — and ninth in 10 — that the Kings either led or were tied after the first period.
Brodeur kept New Jersey in it with a glove save off Justin Williams early in the second period. But it was the Devils who had their foot on the accelerator, with more than a few rushes ending in a bad bounce or an unkind deflection.
A Los Angeles power play produced a Devils chance with Quick getting a piece of a Zach Parise redirect.
The fans were irate when Clarkson seemed to take an accidental stick in the face from Mitchell late in the period but there was no call.
Brodeur was majestic in the third, stacking his pads or whipping out his glove hand to stop the puck.
The road win also tied the league record of 46 for away victories during one post-season (82 games so far). There were also 46 in 1987.
In their 10 road wins, the Kings have outscored their opponents 34-15 this post-season.
The Kings are 4-0 in Game 2s in the post-season.