The Mighty Ducks played so dismally in the first two games in
New Jersey -- losing both by shutout -- that they seemed destined to
be swept. Now, they and their never-get-rattled goalie are firmly
back on their game. And most of all, that game is overtime.
The goal by the 39-year-old Thomas, a late-season pickup by the
Ducks, made Anaheim 7-0 in playoff overtimes, including both finals
games on their home ice. Ruslan Salei got the winner in Game 3 on
Saturday. Of Anaheim's 14 playoff victories, 10 have come in
overtime or the final five minutes of the third period.
"They're a hot team in overtime; they're a confident team in
overtime, and we tried to change that invincible thing for them,''
Devils coach Pat Burns said. "We missed a chance to win it (by
Jeff Friesen), and the game could have been over before he (Thomas)
scored. That's often the way it happens. You miss a chance and the
(other) team comes back and haunts you.''
Thomas' goal came after Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, losing his
personal duel with Giguere, initially stopped Pahlsson's shot to
the left of the net. But the puck deflected out to the right
circle, where Thomas cleanly put it past Brodeur.
"I thought their D-man was going to get to it,'' Thomas said.
"I just went to the net, and it came right to me and I shot it.
... When you have an opportunity to score an overtime goal like
that, that's the ultimate.''
Guaranteeing that the finals will come back to the Pond for Game
6 on Saturday, Anaheim now has matched the Canadiens' record of 12
one-goal playoffs wins in 1993.
"It's a lot different going back to Jersey 2-2 instead of
3-1,'' Thomas said. "We knew after those two games in Jersey we
were a lot better team than we showed. We decided it was time to
turn up our game. It was a little bit embarrassing to play the way
we played in the first two games.''
Giguere extended his record playoff overtime shutout streak to
168 minutes, 27 seconds, though he needed to make only one save in
the overtime. He stopped all 26 New Jersey shots, including a
succession of good attempts during a scoreless but riveting second
period, and now is 7-0 in playoff overtime games.
Giguere also challenged the Ducks to play with more emotion and
commitment after the two losses, and they've followed his lead.
"Jiggy showed he's a great leader,'' Thomas said.
Giguere said: "We gave them too much respect, and we needed to
go out there and play our game, do what we've done all year. (As a
result) there is a hell of a lot of difference on the ice.''
Brodeur, who shut out the Ducks in the first two games, turned
aside 25 of 26 shots, but again he couldn't stop the winner. He
agreed the series has changed dramatically as it returns to the New
Jersey swamp for Game 5 Thursday.
"They feel pretty good about themselves, and on the other side,
we just blew a 2-0 lead,'' he said. "So it's kind of hard to bring
any kind of momentum into Game 5. But we'll regroup. ... It's
really important for us to have that confidence that we're going to
be hard to beat in our building, because they didn't play well in
This is the first time since the 1978 finals that the home team
has won each of the first four games. Montreal won the first two
and Boston won the next two, but the Canadiens won the series in
"We're disappointed, but we can't be down,'' Burns said. "Now
it's a best two-of-three series.''
Anaheim is 10-0 when it scores first in a playoff game.
Brodeur, whose stick-losing gaffe cost the Devils a goal and,
eventually, the game in their 3-2 loss Saturday, gave his team
another scare in the third period. This time, though, he didn't
give the Ducks a goal.
About 4 1/2 minutes into the period, Brodeur stopped Salei's shot,
but the puck dropped from his glove and slithered along the goal
line before he swatted it away with his stick, while facing the
goal. Brodeur then smiled, maybe with a twinge of nervousness,
knowing he had gotten away with another nearly grievous mistake.
Well before that, the goaltenders' duel predicted before the
series began finally broke out in a second period that was
scoreless but by far the most action-filled of a predictably
Giguere, though far less experienced than Brodeur, matched him
save for save -- mostly because the forwards were matching each
other post for post.
Giguere's best two saves came late in the period, first on Scott
Niedermayer's one-timer that deflected off the goalie's stick and,
in the final 10 seconds, on John Madden's breakaway that Giguere
Giguere also made two key saves on Brian Gionta's shots on the
same shift, the first just above the crease and the other from the
With both coaches sensing this could be the pivotal game in the
series, they made tactical changes with their lineups.
Burns played forward Mike Rupp for the first time in the
playoffs. Rupp hadn't played since a minor league game May 5 and
hadn't been in uniform for the Devils since March 28. He replaced
Jim McKenzie to provide a set of fresh legs on the fourth line and
help on faceoffs.
Ducks coach Mike Babcock also tried forward Paul Kariya on
multiple lines, trying to get him away from a tough defensive
matchup against Scott Stevens and Madden. Burns also played
forwards Jamie Langenbrunner and Sergei Brylin with different
linemates in an attempt to generate some offense.
New Jersey's power play, the NHL's worst during the season,
again was of no help, going 0-for-3; it's 1-for-12 in the series.
Anaheim didn't convert on its only chance.
The overtime goal was Thomas' second of his career. He owns
the NHL record of 13 overtime game winners in regular season play.
... The first period has been scoreless in every game of the
series. ... Anaheim, so decisive on faceoffs in Game 3, won a
remarkable 18 of 24 faceoffs in the second period and was 45-26
overall. ... It was the first Stanley Cup finals game to go into
overtime scoreless since Mike Modano's third-overtime winner for
Dallas in Game 5 at New Jersey. The Devils won the series two
nights later in Dallas, also in overtime. ... It was the fourth
fastest finish to a Stanley Cup overtime game. ... New Jersey is
2-4 in overtime. ... Anaheim is 12-1 in one-goal games.