Ducks tie finals at 2-2 with seventh straight playoff OT winPosted: Monday June 02, 2003 11:16 PM
Updated: Tuesday June 03, 2003 1:46 AM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- They were embarrassed, demoralized, ready to be beaten. Then the Mighty Ducks remembered what made them successful -- let goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere get them to overtime and win it there.
Steve Thomas, an old-timer on one of the most inexperienced Stanley Cup finalists ever, put in a rebound 39 seconds into overtime, giving Anaheim a dramatic 1-0 victory over New Jersey on Monday night and evening the finals at two games each.
The Mighty Ducks played so dismally in the first two games in New Jersey -- losing both by shutout -- that they seemed destined to be swept. Now, they and their never-get-rattled goalie are firmly back on their game. Most of all, that game is overtime.
The goal by the 39-year-old Thomas, a late-season pickup, made the Ducks 7-0 in playoff overtimes, including both finals games on their home ice. Ruslan Salei got the winner in Game 3 on Saturday. Of Anaheim's 14 playoff victories, 10 have come in overtime or the final five minutes of the third period.
It was appropriate Thomas got the goal; he owns the NHL record with 13 overtime game-winners in regular-season play.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, losing his personal duel with Giguere, initially stopped Samuel Pahlsson's shot to the left of the net. But the puck deflected out to the right circle, where Thomas cleanly put it past Brodeur.
"I thought their D-man was going to get to it," Thomas said. "I just went to the net, and it came right to me and I shot it. ... When you have an opportunity to score an overtime goal like that, that's the ultimate."
Guaranteeing the finals will return to the Pond for Game 6 on Saturday, Anaheim matched the Canadiens' record of 12 one-goal playoffs wins in 1993. The Ducks are 12-1 in one-goal games.
"It's a lot different going back to Jersey 2-2 instead of 3-1," Thomas said. "We knew after those two games in Jersey we were a lot better team than we showed. We decided it was time to turn up our game. It was a little bit embarrassing to play the way we played in the first two games."
Giguere challenged the Ducks to play with more emotion and commitment after the two losses, and they've followed his lead.
"Jiggy showed he's a great leader," Thomas said.
Giguere, who had never appeared in the playoffs before this spring, is the first goalie in NHL history to win his first seven playoff overtime games. He extended his record playoff overtime shutout streak to 168 minutes, 27 seconds, though he needed to make only one save in the overtime. He stopped 26 shots overall.
"We gave them too much respect, and we needed to go out there and play our game, do what we've done all year," Giguere said. "[As a result] there is a hell of a lot of difference on the ice."
And in the series. Just ask the Devils.
"The pressure is on us," defenseman Scott Stevens said. "We're going to try to stay positive. We beat this team twice and we had two games in overtime. Like I said, we're going to keep our heads."
Brodeur, who shut out the Ducks in the first two games, turned aside 25 of 26 shots, but again he couldn't stop the winner. He is 8-18 in playoff overtimes, giving him only one more victory in 11 playoff seasons than Giguere has this spring.
"They feel pretty good about themselves, and on the other side, we just blew a 2-0 lead," Brodeur said. "So it's kind of hard to bring any kind of momentum into Game 5. But we'll regroup. ... It's really important for us to have that confidence that we're going to be hard to beat in our building, because they didn't play well in those games."
This is the first time since the 1978 finals the home team has won each of the first four games. Montreal won the first two and Boston won the next two, but the Canadiens won the series in six games.
"We're disappointed, but we can't be down," Burns said. "Now it's a best two-of-three series."
Stevens called the sudden swing "frustrating ... not demoralizing. It's not over yet."
Brodeur, whose stick-losing gaffe cost the Devils a goal and, eventually, the game in their 3-2 loss Saturday, gave his team another big scare in the third period.
About 4 1/2 minutes into the period, Brodeur stopped Salei's shot, but the puck dropped from his glove and slithered along the goal line before he swatted it away with his stick, while facing the goal.
Well before that, the goaltenders' duel predicted before the series began finally broke out in a second period that was scoreless but by far the most action-filled of a predictably low-scoring series.
Giguere, though far less experienced than Brodeur, matched him save for save -- mostly because the forwards were matching each other post for post.
Giguere's best two saves came late in the period, first on Scott Niedermayer's one-timer that deflected off the goalie's stick and, in the final 10 seconds, on John Madden's breakaway that Giguere smothered.
Giguere also made two key saves on Brian Gionta's shots on the same shift, the first just above the crease and the other from the right circle.
With both coaches sensing this could be the pivotal game in the series, they made tactical changes with their lineups.
Burns played forward Mike Rupp for the first time in the playoffs. Rupp hadn't played since a minor league game May 5 and hadn't been in uniform for the Devils since March 28. He replaced Jim McKenzie to provide a set of fresh legs on the fourth line and help on faceoffs.
Ducks coach Mike Babcock also tried forward Paul Kariya on multiple lines, trying to get him away from a tough defensive matchup against Scott Stevens and Madden. Burns also played forwards Jamie Langenbrunner and Sergei Brylin with different linemates in an attempt to generate some offense.
New Jersey's power play, the NHL's worst during the season, again was of no help, going 0-for-3; it's 1-for-12 in the series. Anaheim didn't convert on its only chance.
Notes: Anaheim is 10-0 when scoring first in the playoffs. ... The playoff overtime goal was Thomas' second of his career. He also had one with Toronto in 2000. ... The first period has been scoreless in every game of the series. ... Anaheim, so decisive on faceoffs in Game 3, won a remarkable 18 of 24 faceoffs in the second period and was 45-26 overall. ... It was the first Stanley Cup finals game to go into overtime scoreless since Mike Modano's third-overtime winner for Dallas in Game 5 at New Jersey. The Devils won the series two nights later in Dallas, also in overtime. ... It was the fourth fastest finish to a Stanley Cup overtime game. ... New Jersey is 2-4 in overtime.