NEWARK, N.J. -- Just as they did following their season-ending loss to the Kings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday, the Devils rallied around teammate Steve Bernier and absolved him of any guilt in the team's devastating defeat.
It was Bernier's five-minute boarding major for a hit on Rob Scuderi that preceded three power-play goals for the Kings and a 3-0 hole for the Devils.
"I have no second thoughts on him whatsoever," general manager Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday. "I'm just so proud of the way he handled it after the game and what he said. Absolutely not his fault under any circumstances. Could've been any player on the ice."
After the game -- a 6-1 Devils loss that allowed the Kings to clinch their first title -- Bernier patiently answered waves of questions about his miscue rather than duck out and head for the team bus.
Lamoriello agreed that the hit deserved to be penalized, but vouched for Bernier as an honest player.
"To me, that was a penalty, unfortunately," Lamoriello said. "And in all fairness to Bernier -- who had a great year for us, he played great -- those things could’ve happened to any player. That type of situation, the way that rule is, a player turns -- he was doing his job. His job is to finish, his job is to take the body, which he did consistently."
Coach Pete DeBoer echoed a similar sentiment and praised the 27-year-old winger's contributions as a member of the team's productive, high-energy fourth line that was phenomenal during the postseason.
"Steve was just doing what we asked him to do and what he was very effective in doing the entire playoffs -- get in on the forecheck and finish a hit," he said. "I have no negative feelings towards that play."
Bernier, who after the game said he wished he could take the play back, sounded grateful for the support he has received from coaches, teammates and fans alike. He was particularly touched to see the crowd of fans waiting in the rain Tuesday when the Devils' plane arrived home in Newark.
"It was extremely hard that night, but right now it's back to feeling good," he said. "When I saw the fans yesterday cheering and stuff, that helps in a way. I've put it behind me."