Work in Sports
Outshining the Stars
New Jersey downs Dallas to regain home-ice advantage
Posted: Tuesday June 06, 2000 12:10 AM
By Chris Stevenson, SLAM! Sports
DALLAS -- There were tornado warnings in Texas on Saturday night and the stormy, forboding weather was a fitting backdrop to what was going on inside the Reunion Arena.
The Stanley Cup final took another wicked twist as the New Jersey Devils bounced back to win Game 3 by a 2-1 score and take a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven final.
Around and around it goes, the teams again trading momentum in the series.
In the eye of the storm Saturday night were each teams' two top lines and Stars defenceman Derian Hatcher, who made two curious and deadly decisions which helped contribute to the Devils' goals.
On the first, he went out of his way to clear a stick dropped by teammate Guy Carbonneau, opening the door for New Jersey's Jason Arnott to score with a furious, determined charge up the middle.
In the second, he waved at a point shot by New Jersey's Petr Sykora which appeared to distract Stars goaltender Ed Belfour and wound up being the winner on the power play.
"We're disappointed we lost. We're disappointed we're down in the series," said Hatcher. "We'll talk about it [Sunday] and bounce back for Game 4. We have a choice now. Fight on or quit."
Game 3 was a game unlike the first two. It didn't have the open, mistake-filled play (on the part of the Stars) that was story of Game 1 or the plodding, tight-fistedness of Game 2.
It did continue to be a story of the battle between the two teams' top lines. New Jersey's Arnott, Sykora and Patrik Elias, the effort of the latter two questioned by Devils coach Larry Robinson after a poor performance in Game 2, took back the momentum Saturday night with those goals from Arnott and Sykora.
How the top lines have fared have defined their team's fate so far in the series.
The Arnott unit had four goals in Game 1, but was shutout in the Stars' victory in Game 2 as Brett Hull had both Dallas goals with helpers from Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen.
"Unbelievable," said Robinson of the effort of Elias and Sykora. "I told Patrik Elias after the game I was very proud of both of them. I talked to them before and I think nobody feels worse than they do they didn't come out and have a good Game 2. But it shows the true professionals that they are when they come out tonight and just play a heck of a game. I thought the guy that was just a dominant factor out there for us, played great, was Jason Arnott."
This final is becoming a launching pad for Arnott, who is finally starting to fulfill his promise.
He put the Devils back in the game with a great individual effort at a critical time.
After Sylvain Cote had given the Stars a 1-0 lead at 13:08 of the first on just their second power play of the final, Dallas was set up for a big opportunity to take control of the game and the series with a 5-on-3 advantage for 49 seconds.
"We could have really put a nail in things if we have scored on that," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock.
The Devils killed it off and three minutes later, Arnott continued his sizzling pace with his seventh of the playoffs and third of the final. He burst up the middle when Hatcher gave him the step he needed when Hatcher made that ill-timed decision to clear Carbonneau's stick out of the way.
When Arnott burst through the middle, Hatcher had more ground to cover and couldn't get his body in front of Arnott, only his stick, which Arnott brushed off.
He then chipped the puck through the legs of Belfour.
"I didn't want to trip on [Carbonneau's stick] skating backwards," said Hatcher by way of explanation. "I don't like sticks laying in the middle of the ice."
Hitchcock shied away from matching the Modano line against the Arnott unit, but it obviously didn't bring the desired result. Hitchcock matched the Modano line against the Devils unit of Scott Gomez with Sergei Brylin and Alexander Mogilny for most of the night.
What is evident is the Stars need more from their other forwards since it's obvious when the Modano unit doesn't score, neither do the Stars.
Where's Joe Nieuwendyk? Last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner has been a non-factor.
"Nieuwendyk is like a lot of people out there who are not playing with a sense of urgency," said Hitchcock. "If we're going to win the next game or the series, we hae to play with a higher level of desperation from the blue line in. I think both teams are going to get their chances off the rush, but we're not getting quality chances off our time in the offensive zone.
"Part of it is what New Jersey is doing, but the bigger part is that we are just not -- including Nieuwendyk and a lot of other people - we are not playing with the necessary sense of urgency. Both teams are committed defensively and if you are going to score, you are going to have to be a lot more desperate.
"They're controlling the play. We're the team that has to pick it up."
If the Stars can't find a way to win Game 4 on Monday night, they will be the ones twisting in the wind.