SI.com 2003 NHL Playoffs 2003 NHL Playoffs


One-sided swap

Friesen, Tverdovsky outplaying Sykora in finals

Posted: Friday May 30, 2003 2:24 AM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils are within two games of their third Stanley Cup since 1995 because two former Anaheim Mighty Ducks are making life miserable for their old teammates.

Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky set up two goals and Jeff Friesen got his third in two games in leading the Devils to a 3-0 victory Thursday night and a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals.

"I think anytime you go from one team to another ... you want to play your best hockey against them," Devils captain Scott Stevens said. "Jeff is showing that right now and so is Oleg."

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That might be true for the entire team. New Jersey has played two near-perfect games in helping Martin Brodeur post consecutive shutouts, his sixth of this postseason and 19th overall in the playoffs.

The best-of-seven series shifts to Anaheim for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday.

Clearly, the Devils have all the momentum.

"It's so important that you feel good about yourself," said Brodeur, who faced only 16 shots. "It's a lot easier, especially when you have to travel across country like that. We're not used to travel too much. When you're on the winning side, it's definitely easier to go all the way to California."

Friesen and Tverdovsky should really enjoy the return trip. They were traded to New Jersey last summer in a multiplayer deal that sent Petr Sykora and others to Anaheim.

Friesen has been phenomenal the last two rounds, scoring six goals in eight games. He had three game-winners in the conference finals against Ottawa, including the series-clincher in Game 7, and the winner against Anaheim in Game 1.

Tverdovsky, who was benched for eight of nine games, was re-inserted into the lineup this series. He set up goal-starved linemates Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez for second-period goals in staking New Jersey to a 2-0 lead.

"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."

The goals were the third of the playoffs for Elias and the second for Gomez. Both had been under pressure after having combined to score 41 goals in the regular season.

"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.

"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."

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.

"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 irony on this goal was that Sykora was in the penalty box.

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

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.

It all had to make general manager Lou Lamoriello smile.

"Lou knows how to build a hockey team," Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner said. "Everyone might not agree with him but he know how to build a team. I doubt he's patting himself on the back. He's just trying to make the team better."

This trade has.


 
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