Work in Sports
Game 4 Analysis
The Stars couldn't close the deal on the Devils
Posted: Tuesday June 06, 2000 07:09 PM
The Dallas Stars had their successful formula working to perfection through 40 minutes -- stellar netminding by Ed Belfour, an opening granted by the opposition taking three successive penalties and an opportunistic offense which capitalized on the power play. It was enough to secure a 1-0 lead.
It looked as if Dallas had the Devils right where they wanted them. After all, the Stars were 11-0 in the playoffs when entering the final period with a lead. They had won the fourth game in each of the previous three series. And over the past three seasons, the Stars have perfected "lockdown mode" -- that frustratingly effective defensive posture employed to protect a one-goal lead.
But in the third, a precocious bunch of Devils shredded Dallas' dog-eared script. The Stars seemed tentative, seemingly approaching the final period not to lose, whereas the Devils came out to win.
Belfour was outstanding in the first two periods, but found himself standing alone in the game's final twenty minutes. It is a scenario to which he is barely accustomed and New Jersey's superior creativity and skills on offense broke Belfour and the Stars. The Devils remained aggressive and attack oriented, even while a man down. Fittingly, John Madden scored the game-winning goal short-handed. He led the NHL with six short-handed goals this season and he, along with fellow rookies Brian Rafalski, Colin White and Scott Gomez, led the Devils' in surging past the defending champs.
The difference in this one was the reliable rookies of the Devils outperforming a Dallas team that suddenly appears too reliant on too few veterans. The Stars entered the game hoping for a return to form by last year's Conn Smythe winner Joe Nieuwendyk. Still, with the Nieuwendyk hitting the score sheet after a five-game absence, it wasn't nearly enough as the Devils' "kiddie corps" has them knockin' on victories door.