SI.com 2003 NHL Playoffs 2003 NHL Playoffs


Timely Tverdovsky

Ex-Duck bounces back from benchings to contribute

Posted: Thursday May 29, 2003 10:53 PM
Updated: Friday May 30, 2003 2:17 AM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The pressure is off Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez, and clearly on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Elias and Gomez, who have struggled finding the net in the postseason, each had a goal and an assist to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 3-0 win Thursday night and a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals against Anaheim.

"They've been battling real hard," linemate Grant Marshall said. "The spotlight's on you when you're a goal scorer and you're not scoring.

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"It's so easy to say they're struggling even though they're still doing the little things in a game that are helping a team out," added Marshall, who made up for his linemates' lack of production with five goals. "It was a matter time until they started breaking through."

Gomez and Elias, who had combined for three goals in 18 games in this postseason after combining for 41 in the regular season, got untracked with the help of a former Mighty Duck defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky.

Benched eight of nine games until this series, Tverdovsky set up second-period goals by Elias and Gomez in staking New Jersey to a 2-0 lead.

"The goals finally went in for us tonight," Gomez said. "Me and Patty have been coming close. It was one of those things. Patty got his off a bounce and the other one hit off me. We'll take it."

Game 3 will be in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday night, and Anaheim needs to come up with some answers in a series in which former Ducks have New Jersey two wins away from a third championship since 1995.

Jeff Friesen, who came to New Jersey along with Tverdovsky in a multiplayer deal that sent Petr Sykora to Anaheim, added his third goal of the series in the third period.

A 28-goal scorer in the regular season, Elias only had two in 18 playoff games. Gomez had only one in the same number of games after getting 13 in the regular season.

"We might not have been scoring but we were creating chances," Elias said. "That put pressure on the other team and that's good for our team."

Elias, who hit about six goal posts in his slump, got a little lucky in giving the Devils a 1-0 at 4:42 of the second period on a power play.

Tverdovsky's shot from the point hit a number of players in front of Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The puck deflected to the right of the crease, and Elias had an open net to put in the rebound. Gomez also assisted on the play.

Elias had just stepped out of the penalty box 19 seconds earlier.

"Would I like to score more goals?" Elias asked. "No question. I don't think I had many chances the first two rounds. The last two rounds I have more chances and it's good I'm getting better the closer we get to the end."

The Devils were on a power play because Sykora was called for holding while Elias was in the penalty box.

Gomez's goal came at 12:11, and it also was a little flukey.

Tverdovsky retrieved a loose puck around 50 feet in front of the Anaheim net, and his shot appeared to hit off Gomez's stomach and deflect past Giguere. Elias assisted on that goal.

"We just had some lucky breaks today," Tverdovsky said. "I don't think we're killing them. We are trying to play the right way, within the system. Tonight, that was the story."

Gomez didn't know how he put the puck in the net.

"The way Marshy was jumping, I thought he put it in. I guess it hit off my leg," Gomez said after snapping a 10-game goal scoring drought.

Friesen, who had two goals in New Jersey's 3-0 win in Game 2, scored on a backhanded early in the third period.

After each goal, the sellout crowd of 19,040 at the Continental Airlines Arena chanted: "Marty is better."

Martin Brodeur was, stopping 16 shots in recording his career-high sixth playoff shutout this season, and the 19th of his career.

 
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