NEWARK, N.J. — For a guy who faced 39 shots and gave up four goals to the Devils in his first playoff game since 2006, the Canes' Cam Ward looked fresh, bright-eyed and ready for another game.
"Overall, they came out and played a playoff-style hockey game," Ward said today of the 4-1 loss Wednesday in Game One of the playoffs. "At the end of the day, they just outfought us.
"We played like a little bit of a nervous hockey team and played a little bit flat, but it's over and done with. Part of the playoffs is you've got to put games behind you and last night's game is definitely a game you want to put behind you because there was not much good to come from it."
Nervous? Ward, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in the Canes' 2006 run to the Stanley Cup, said he was feeling some jitters in net, too.
"Yeah, I was nervous before the game," he said. "But I think it's good to be nervous. It shows that you care.
"I felt comfortable. I thought I was moving well. You look at a couple of goals I probably could have had but that's part of the game, and just overall as a team we have to be much better."
The Devils took a 1-0 lead in the first when defenseman Mike Mottau fired a shot — Ward called it a "Tim Wakefield knuckleball" — from just inside the blue line. That came after Ward tried to clear the puck along the boards, only to have Mottau control it.
"That wasn't very Brodeur-like," a smiling Ward said, noting the puck-handling skills of Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. "I was trying to do a little too much. I should have just placed it in the corner and let our D men do their thing."
Then, in the first minute of the second, the Devils' Zach Parise won a puck battle on the boards in the Carolina zone and winged a wrister past Ward. Patrik Elias added a goal later in the period for a 3-0 lead, and Jamie Langenbrunner quickly answered Ray Whitney's goal in the third when it was 3-1.
But no excuses, Ward said.
"Just from the drop of the puck you've got to be ready to compete," he said. "They looked like were winning the one-on-one battles and just had a step on us.
"We were excited but you've got to be able to play loose, play relaxed and just play the way we know we're capable of playing. I don't think it's a time to panic but at the same time we realize we have to play better and I'm confident we will be able to rebound and play well."