PLAYOFF SERIES: Stanley Cup final; Devils lead 2-1.
Just when it looked like their stunning playoff run might be nearing an end, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks showed once again that they can’t be counted out.
Following a critical overtime victory in Game 3, the Mighty Ducks look to pull even with the New Jersey Devils in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals at Arrowhead Pond.
Anaheim appeared to be overmatched after Martin Brodeur and the playoff-tested Devils beat them 3-0 in each of the first two games. The Ducks essentially had to win Game 3 to have a chance at the Stanley Cup.
Anaheim did it, summoning more of the magic that carried it to shocking upsets of powerful Detroit and Dallas on the way to the Cup finals.
Perhaps most encouraging for the Ducks was the play of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who had struggled to rediscover his dominant form—as well as his focus—in the first two games. Giguere made 29 saves Saturday and set an NHL record by running his overtime scoreless streak in the playoffs to 167 minutes, 48 seconds.
Giguere passed his idol, the recently retired Patrick Roy, for the league record. He did not allow an overtime goal for the sixth straight game.
“We all feel good in overtime because it’s exciting. It gets the best out of you,” Giguere said.
While the Mighty Ducks goaltender appears to be rounding back into form, the Devils will need Giguere’s counterpart to bounce back in Game 4. Not only did Brodeur barely react to Salei’s game-winning shot, but made one of the biggest misplays of his career to gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead at 14:47 of the second period.
Brodeur was unable to control Sandis Ozolinsh’s seemingly harmless shot as it trickled in from center ice. The goalie dropped his stick, and the puck trickled off the stick and into the side of the net as Brodeur dropped to his knees and raised his hand to his head in disbelief.
Only 45 seconds before, the Devils had tied it at 1 on Patrik Elias’ goal.
“I was just trying to stop it, the stick slipped out of my hands and the puck hit it and went in the goal,” Brodeur said. “It was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime things.”
The Devils need the gaffe to be just that, as New Jersey draws much of its confidence from the consistency of its star goaltender.
“You don’t think Patrick Roy ever made a play like that? It’s not the end of the world. You’re going to fault the goaltender for that? I’m not,” Devils coach Pat Burns said.
Still, the Devils managed to tie it at 2 when Scott Gomez deflected Grant Marshall’s wrist shot past Giguere at 9:11 of the third. Gomez has two goals in the finals after scoring only once in 16 games.
The Ducks’ winning goal highlighted a problem that haunted the Devils throughout Game 3. Salei’s goal was the result of Oates’ faceoff win and completed a dominant night in that area for Anaheim, which won 51 of 81 faceoffs.
New Jersey sorely missed injured center Joe Nieuwendyk for the first time in the series. Nieuwendyk, one of the league’s best faceoff men, is out with a hip injury and his status for the rest of the series is uncertain.
History suggests that the Ducks will need to win Monday night to have any chance to take the series. No team has ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup finals, although Toronto climbed out of a 3-0 hole to defeat Detroit for the championship in 1942.
The clubs will get two days off before the scene shifts back to Continental Airlines Arena for Game 5 on Thursday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Devils - 2nd seed; beat Boston Bruins 4-1, conference quarterfinals; beat Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1, conference semifinals; beat Ottawa Senators 4-3, conference finals. Mighty Ducks - 7th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-0, conference quarterfinals; beat Dallas Stars 4-2, conference semifinals; beat Minnesota Wild 4-0, conference finals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Jamie Langenbrunner, 9 goals and 16 points; Scott Niedermayer, 12 assists; Colin White, 27 PIM. Mighty Ducks - Paul Kariya, 5 goals; Mike Leclerc, 8 assists, Oates, 11 points; Salei, 22 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Devils - Power play: 15.3 percent (11 for 72). Penalty killing: 90.5 percent (57 for 63). Mighty Ducks - Power play: 10.2 percent (6 for 59). Penalty killing: 87.9 percent (51 for 58).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Devils, 2-0. In the first meeting, Langenbrunner and Gomez had goals 29 seconds apart to force overtime, and Langenbrunner scored with 1:56 left in the extra period to give the Devils a 3-2 home victory Nov. 12. In the second matchup, Jay Pandolfo’s short-handed goal broke a tie midway through the final period to lift New Jersey to a 3-1 win Jan. 24 at Arrowhead Pond.