Devils even series with Avalanche

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2001

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So Patrick Roy isn't perfect after all -- and the New Jersey Devils still have a grip on the Stanley Cup, just when they seemed ready to hand it over to the Colorado Avalanche.

Petr Sykora, skating without injured linemate Jason Arnott, scored the winning goal with 2:37 to play after a slumping Scott Gomez had tied it on a mistake by hockey's best goalie, and the Devils rallied twice to beat the Avalanche 3-2 Saturday night in Game 4.

''That was the game we needed, and we got it,'' defenseman Scott Stevens said after the Devils, within 10 minutes of trailing by two games, tied the series. ''It's never over -- not with this team.''

Now the finals shift to Denver for Game 5 on Monday. Game 6 will be Thursday at New Jersey, with Game 7, if necessary, on Saturday in Denver, where the teams split two games last week.

''We've got to put this behind us right now,'' Colorado coach Bob Hartley said. ''Now, it's a best-of-three and we still have home ice. We came here and got a split, and we have to look at the positive side.''

The Devils, who said before the game they couldn't retain the cup without winning Game 4, dominated play for most of the night, outshooting the Avalanche 35-12, but didn't solve Roy until midway through the third period.

Or, actually, until Roy essentially handed them a goal.

With Colorado leading 2-1 in the third period but New Jersey getting nearly all the scoring chances, Roy -- almost flawless until then -- made his second misplay in two games.

Roy went behind the net to play a bouncing puck but fumbled it off his stick directly to Jay Pandolfo, who slipped it to Gomez in front of the abandoned net. Gomez put it in at 8:09 of the third for his first goal in his last 13 playoff games.

''It was a soft dump and I went outside and was going to throw it on my forehand, but nobody was there,'' Roy said. ''I tried to bring it back and throw to Rob Blake, but it stayed at my feet. I wish I had a second chance, but you don't get a second chance out there.''

Now the Devils do.

''It's great to finally see a break go our way, for probably the first time in the series,'' Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. ''We've had a tough time against these guys. But we've got momentum now. It changes the cards, no doubt about it.''

It certainly changes the series, though none of the Avalanche would blame Roy for it.

''We all saw what happened,'' Hartley said. ''The puck popped out, and there wasn't much he (Roy) could do about it. But he was outstanding, just as he's been throughout the whole playoffs.''

Defenseman Ray Bourque said, ''It would have been highway robbery if we had snuck that one out. We left him hanging out to dry all night, and he almost won it for us. We were a step behind all night.''

The game before, Roy strayed far from the net to play a puck along the boards, couldn't get back fast enough and saw Patrik Elias ring a shot off a post. Roy was so upset with that mistake, he turned over the net in anger at the end of the second period.

The Devils played the final two periods without A-Line center Jason Arnott, who was taken to a hospital for tests after being struck on the left side of his head by a puck a few seconds into the game.

Even without Arnott, the A-Line came alive for the first time in the series, with Sykora and Elias each scoring goals.

Sykora won the game after Blake, who had scored the game's first goal, couldn't control the puck along the boards in his own end. Elias managed to feed Sykora skating down the slot and he beat Roy for the Devils' biggest goal of the season and his ninth of the playoffs.

''This was the best game we've played in the playoffs,'' Brian Rafalski said. ''Now we've got to carry it over to Monday.''

Gomez was benched for most of the third period of the Avalanche's 3-1 victory in Game 3, but, apparently getting coach Larry Robinson's pointed message, came out skating hard and got his fifth goal of the playoffs.

''Tonight, he was skating and getting involved,'' said Robinson, who couldn't have asked for a better 50th birthday.

Colorado went more than 13 minutes without a shot and at one point had only two shots in 26 minutes, only to take a 2-1 lead on Chris Drury's goal at 13:54 of the second.

Less than a minute after Alexander Mogilny's hard slap shot ricocheted off both the crossbar and the right post without going in, Drury got free one-on-one against defenseman Sean O'Donnell in the Devils' zone and, switching from his backhand to his forehand, steered the puck over Brodeur for his 10th of the playoffs.

New Jersey had tied it short-handed earlier in the period on Elias' first goal in nine Stanley Cup finals games. With New Jersey controlling the puck even while down a man, Sykora fed the puck across the slot to Elias, who slipped it past Roy at 3:42 -- the first short-handed goal against Colorado in the playoffs.

Despite managing only eight shots in the first two periods -- the lowest in a Stanley Cup finals game since Boston had seven in a 1988 game -- the Avalanche wasted a succession of chances to build on the lead by going 0-for-5 on the power play.

Colorado had taken a 1-0 lead only 3:58 into the game when Alex Tanguay carried the puck out and drew defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens to him, allowing Blake to drive in alone and beat Brodeur up high as the goaltender went down to play the puck.

Later in the period, with two players off for both sides, the teams skated 3-on-3 -- a rarity during the playoffs -- for 49 seconds, with Bourque missing an open net on a Drury rebound. After that, the Avalanche didn't get a shot for nearly 12 minutes.

Arnott, who had four goals in last year's finals against Dallas, took a puck off the left side of his face just after the game's opening faceoff.

He immediately skated to the Devils' bench, where he collapsed briefly before being taken to the dressing room. Arnott returned a few minutes later and began taking shifts again, although he appeared to be skating much more tentatively than normal. He played 3 minutes, 41 seconds in the period, but didn't play again the rest of the game.

Notes: New Jersey is 14-8 in the playoffs. No team has ever won the cup with more than seven losses. ... Colorado is 6-3 on the road during the postseason. ... The Devils are 2-3 at home in the last two finals. ... Roy lost for the first time in his last six Stanley Cup finals road games. ... The Devils also trailed Toronto 2-1 in the third period of Game 3 of the second round before winning 3-2 in overtime. ... It was the third game in a row the team scoring first didn't win.

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