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Devils maintain home dominance with a flourish

6/6/2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Three unconventional goals in a
totally out-of-character game put the New Jersey Devils in a
familiar position -- up 3-2 in the Stanley Cup finals.

Brian Gionta scored a goal and set up Jay Pandolfo for the
go-ahead score -- neither of which went off the Devils' sticks -- in
a decisive second period as New Jersey beat the Anaheim Mighty
Ducks 6-3 in Game 5 Thursday night.

After four consecutive games of limited scoring chances, minimal
open ice, shutouts and excellent goaltending, all of the above
vanished in a shootout that was the antithesis of the series to
date.

"I don't know where this came from,'' Ducks coach Mike Babcock
said.

"It was unbelievable,'' Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said.

What stayed the same was the Devils' dominance on home ice. They
have outscored the Ducks 12-3 while winning all three games at
Continental Airlines Arena. The Devils are 11-1 at home in the
playoffs, matching Edmonton's 1988 record for home wins in a single
playoff year.

"We knew the pressure was on us tonight, and I think now we've
put a little bit on them,'' Devils coach Pat Burns said. "The team
rallied around each other, pushing each other and giving hell to
each other, which made my job easier. I could see that on the
bench.''

What the Devils can see clearly is the Stanley Cup, and they're
only one victory away from their third Cup in nine seasons. That
would match the Detroit Red Wings for the most titles since the
Edmonton Oilers won four straight in the 1980s.

"But it's the toughest (win) to get,'' Pandolfo said. "So
close and yet so far away.''

This is the third time in four seasons that the Devils have led
the finals 3-2. In 2000, they closed out the Dallas Stars on the
road in Game 6, but a year later they squandered their lead by
losing the final two games, and the Cup, to Colorado.

The Devils can raise the Cup by winning Game 6 Saturday night in
Anaheim, where the Ducks won two closely played games in overtime
to even the series.

The only players working overtime Thursday were the goalies,
Brodeur (20 saves on 23 shots) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (31 saves
on 37 shots). Giguere hadn't allowed more than three goals in any
playoff game this spring, including seven overtime games.

"This goalie's been unbelievable for them. Hopefully, we got to
his confidence a little bit,'' Pandolfo said. "We just seem to
play well at home. Now we've got some confidence offensively maybe
we can take to Anaheim.''

The up-and-down, free-flowing game looked nothing like the first
four games, when there wasn't a single goal scored in the first
period.

This time it was 2-2 after one before the Devils retook the lead
-- not by putting the puck in the net, but by letting the Ducks do
it for them.

Gionta, who had been without a goal in the playoffs, threw the
puck toward the net from along the right-wing boards, and it
deflected off Ducks forward Mike Leclerc's stick and into the net
before Giguere could react at 3:12.

Samuel Pahlsson tied it just over three minutes later, but
Pandolfo gave the Devils the lead for good at 4-3 midway through
the period on a goal that was initially waved off by referee Bill
McCreary.

Gionta was trying to get the puck down low when it deflected off
Pandolfo's skate and past Giguere. McCreary quickly signaled no
goal, indicating Gionta had kicked the puck in.

But replays showed there was no distinct kicking motion by
Gionta -- the criteria the NHL uses to determine if a player is
intentionally trying to deflect the puck -- and director of
officiating Andy Van Hellemond let the goal stand after watching a
replay.

Babcock said the goal should have counted, and he had no problem
with the call.

Jamie Langenbrunner added his 10th and 11th goals of the
playoffs in the third period. Gionta assisted on the second one,
giving him a three-point night. Langenbrunner's first goal also
came off an odd bounce, going off Ducks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh
and the boards behind the net before deflecting in.

The game wasn't a minute old before it became clear it would be
quite different from the others in the series. Petr Sykora, the
Ducks' leading goal scorer during the season but largely
ineffective in the series, scored with only 42 seconds gone.

At that point, Anaheim had more goals than it had scored in 120
minutes over the first two games on New Jersey ice, which the
Devils dominated with twin 3-0 victories in Games 1 and 2.

The goal was almost an instant replay of Ruslan Salei's winner
in overtime of Game 3. Just as on that goal, Adam Oates cleanly won
a faceoff in the offensive zone that went directly to Sykora, who
one-timed it off Brodeur's glove.

But in a series in which the first goal had all but determined
the winner, any momentum Anaheim generated off its first goal -- and
its first lead -- on the Devils' ice vanished when Pascal Rheaume
deflected Turner Stevenson's wraparound shot past Giguere less than
three minutes later.

The Ducks had been 10-0 when scoring the first goal, just as New
Jersey is.

"Whoever scores the first goal wins? Wash that one out,'' Burns
said. "We came back right away (after the Sykora goal), and that's
probably what settled everybody down.''

The Devils took a 2-1 lead on only their 12th power-play goal of
the playoffs, by Patrik Elias at 7:45. It was New Jersey's first
lead in the series since Brodeur lost his stick and let in
Ozolinsh's goal in Game 3.

But the Ducks tied it just over five minutes later as Steve
Rucchin scored from the slot off successive quick passes by Sykora
and Paul Kariya. After going four games without a goal from either
of their two top lines, the Ducks suddenly had two in a span of
just over 12 minutes.

Just like that, a series that was becoming one of the
lowest-scoring in a half-century suddenly had its highest-scoring
period since the Red Wings and Flyers also combined for four goals
in the first period of Game 3 in 1997.

Game notes
Madden played with a large gash under his left eye that
needed 20 stitches to close in the first period, apparently caused
by Adam Oates' skate. Oates was trying to push away from Scott
Niedermayer when his skate caught Madden in the face. Madden played
with a visor after returning. ... Teams winning Game 5 have taken
13 of the 17 finals that were tied after four games. However, the
Devils blew that 3-2 series lead with successive losses to the
Avalanche two years ago. ... New Jersey scored twice on the power
play after going 1-for-12 in the first four games.