Eagle gets plucked
Devils run up 7-3 victory on Belfour, Stars
By Chris Stevenson, SLAM! Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Everybody figured the New Jersey Devils would find a way to score at least seven goals against the Dallas Stars in the 2000 Stanley Cup final.
Okay, a lot of people figured that would be seven goals for the series, not in one game.
But the Devils, the team written off by many as being too offensively-challenged to have a chance against the stingy Stars, ripped over and around and through the Stars and a shaky, doped-up Ed Belfour in the Dallas goal for a 7-3 win in Game 1 of the best-of-seven final Tuesday night.
The game ended with Belfour, who had not given up more than two goals in his previous eight games, on the end of the Dallas bench, pulled after giving up six goals on just 18 shots.
Belfour said he's been fighting a cold bug and the prescription drugs he took for it -- a decongestant and antibiotics, he said -- left him feeling sapped and a little disoriented.
When did he figure out the drugs were a problem?
"After six goals," he cracked.
"I didn't feel like I had a lot of energy tonight. I was making bad decisions and misjudging the puck. I haven't had a game like that in a long time. It's definitely frustrating to have it in the first game of the Stanley Cup final."
"Eddie didn't have a great night," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock. "He had great nights for us all playoffs. He didn't have a great one, but I know he will bounce back."
A weird Game 1?
Oh, yeah. You couldn't be blamed for thinking somebody was on drugs when you saw that score.
The first game of a playoff series can be a funny thing. Both teams were coming off tough, seven-game victories in their previous series. Each series has its own rhythm which builds with each game. After those emotional Game 7's, rekindling that emotion can be tough.
Individual rivalries are yet to be forged to fire the passion.
There was no lack of emotion for the Stars.
Unfortunately for them, the emotion was embarrassment.
Belfour sat at the end of the bench, his mask still in place, and glared out after being pulled after Devils Sergei Brylin and Petr Sykora scored 41 seconds apart early in the third.
Belfour was conspicuous where he was, but it should also be noted Dallas defenceman Sergei Zubov was on the ice for the Devils' first five goals. His partner, Darryl Sydor, was out there for four of them.
The Devils certainly deserved the lead at that point given they had dominated the boards and played outstanding positional hockey, challenging the Stars to fight for every inch of forward progress.
They forced the Stars and were credited with 27 takeaways in the game. They kept taking the puck away and mounting counterattacks, which left the Stars pressed into their own zone and running around. The Devils forechecked ferociously.
"They did to us what we wanted to do," said Stars forward Mike Keane. "We weren't hard on their 'D'. We have to get their 'D' to move the puck quicker and get them to turn it over."
It will be easy for the Stars to say they should just forget this game and move on, but a win in Game 1 counts just as much as any of the other three it takes to win the Cup.
To make matters worse for the Stars, they lost captain Derian Hatcher with a leg injury in the third period. He hyperextended his right knee in a collision with New Jersey's Alexander Mogilny, but is expected to be back for the next game.
As it always does at this time of year, it came down to one goaltender being able to stop the puck and one unable to reply.
The pivotal passage came in the middle of the game, one of those sequences of events upon which the outcome often turns, a time when an individual and then a team exends its hands and grabs the moment.
The Devils were holding a 2-1 lead thanks to a rare goal from defenceman Ken Daneyko who scores in the playoffs, oh, about as often as the Devils win the Stanley Cup. Daneyko, who has played in every post-season game the Devils have played, snuck a shot between the pads of Belfour for his first playoff goal since 1995, the last time the Devils won the Cup.
Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur came up with a huge glove save on Dallas' Brett Hull and 30 seconds later, Patrik Elias whipped a backhand pass out front to Petr Sykora, who snapped in between the post and Belfour to make it 3-1.
Devils captain Scott Stevens added another one, putting a shot under Belfour's right pad from 30 feet out to make it 4-1 at 16:04 of the second.
Sergei Brylin and Sykora scored 41 seconds apart early in the third to chase Belfour from the net. Jason Arnott scored his second of the game to make it 7-1 before Jonathan Sim and Kirk Muller scored 12 seconds apart.
"In the end, I don't look at it as a 7-3 game," said Devils coach Larry Robinson. "We had some squeaky goals that went in, a couple of bounces that finally went our way....all this is one game we were fortunate enough to win. Now I have seen this Dallas team down before. They are going to come back stronger."
Belfour will have to decide what's more important, having a runny nose or getting run out of the game.