Work in Sports
Rejuvenated Belfour gives Stars a pick-me-up
Posted: Friday June 02, 2000 12:28 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Ed Belfour didn't feel like he had anything to prove, he just needed to feel better.
He did Thursday night as the Dallas Stars beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 to even the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals 1-1.
The series shifts to Dallas for the next two games, Saturday and Monday, before returning to New Jersey for Game 5.
Belfour allowed six goals on only 18 shots in the opener two nights earlier while fighting a cold with medication, but rebounded with a 27-save effort to atone for the 7-3 defeat. Brett Hull scored both Dallas goals to make sure Belfour's performance was not wasted.
"I know I didn't feel good after the first game," he said. "I just tried to forget about it and get ready for tonight. Just prepare the same way and go out there and try and do my best.
"I felt a lot stronger and I was seeing the puck well. I definitely felt a lot more back on track."
The only questions Belfour, 9-0 after Dallas losses, had to answer about his first-game performance were from reporters and not from his teammates.
"I think a lot of people have made a big deal of this," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think that anybody that knows what it's like to play goal understands that if you don't have energy and you are a step late, you are going to get scored on."
The Stars dropped the opener of the finals for the second straight year only to even the series in the next game.
History is much more in the Stars' favor, with Game 2 winners winning the title in 25 of the last 28 years. There have only been three teams to win after falling behind 2-0 since the finals went to a best-of-seven in 1939.
"To come out even, I think it gives everybody in our room a big boost in the arm," Hull said.
The defending Stanley Cup champions now have the home-ice advantage they held for 11 straight series prior to the finals. The Stars are 9-1 in these playoffs at Reunion Arena.
"We have to go home and get ready for Game 3 with the same attitude and the same team effort," Belfour said. "It is definitely going to be a real competitive game and they're going to be a lot better."
Hull scored once in the first period and again with only 4:16 left -- snapping a 1-1 tie.
Belfour kept the Devils at bay for the final 47:18 of the game -- including several key stops in the final period.
Devils forward Claude Lemieux, a renowned playoff star, was denied on a shot and rebound in close midway through the period and New Jersey checker Randy McKay couldn't convert on two occasions.
Sergei Nemchinov got a pass over to McKay in the opening three minutes of the third, but Belfour was able to slide over and keep the puck out with his stick. Just over four minutes later, McKay found himself open in the slot, only to be turned away when his shot, ticketed for between Belfour's pass, didn't get through fast enough.
Dallas' top line of Hull, Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen was held to just one point, an assist by Lehtinen, in the opening loss. The trio has scored 26 of the Stars' 48 playoff goals this year.
The line also managed to shut down New Jersey's top line of Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora, which had 11 points in the opener.
Hull's first goal was set up by Modano and defenseman Richard Matvichuk. His second came when he chopped down a fanned shot by Lehtinen, deflecting it past Martin Brodeur.
The Stars looked better as a whole, picking up their physical play to counteract the Devils.
Hitchcock said before the series that the Stars would not sit back and absorb punishment from tough defenseman Scott Stevens and the rest of the Devils.
With only 4:10 gone in the game, Mike Keane met Devils forward Jay Pandolfo with a check between the teams' benches. Keane sent Pandolfo into the glass, shattering it onto the carpet leading to the dressing rooms.
The Stars didn't let up.
A little over a minute before Hull's game-winner, Dave Manson leveled Lemieux at neutral ice.
"I think that all falls into the same category of us being ready to play," captain Derian Hatcher said.
The Stars were embarrassed after Game 1. Now the goalie and the
rest of the team feel a whole lot better.