Work in Sports
Rookies move Devils closer to Cup
Posted: Tuesday June 06, 2000 12:54 AM
DALLAS (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils are one win away from the Stanley Cup, and they can thank their so-called "other" rookies.
John Madden and Brian Rafalski scored in a 1:17 span early in the third period to cap a three-goal burst that led the Devils to a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Monday night and 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven finals.
"Those were definitely huge goals," said coach Larry Robinson, who has done a masterful job of turning around the Devils after taking over with eight games left in the regular season.
Robinson has turned a team ready to fall apart under Robbie Ftorek into one that is getting contributions from all 20 guys, from stars Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens to his four rookies, Madden, Rafalski, Scott Gomez and Colin White.
The rookies have been outstanding in the playoffs.
Gomez has 10 points in the playoffs on four goals and six assists. Madden has three goals and four assists and Rafalski has two goals and six assists. White is a plus 10.
"I don't understand how it happens," Stevens said of the rookies' performance. "But they are playing with confidence and nothing is affecting them. We've talked about this. Sometimes it's easier as a rookie, you come in and play and enjoy it and have fun. As a veteran you feel pressure, because you don't know if you're ever going to get back there again."
For Stevens and eight other teammates, it's been five years between sips from the Cup.
New Jersey now can win its second Stanley Cup since 1995 by winning Game 5 at the Continental Airlines Arena on Thursday night.
The only bad news the Devils had in sweeping both games in Dallas was a late injury to Jason Arnott, who was knocked woozy after being elbowed by Derian Hatcher late in the game.
"He's OK," Stevens said. "His teeth are a little messed up but he said he'll play on Thursday."
After falling behind late in the second period, the Devils rallied in the third period after Sergei Brylin tied the score early on rebound 2:27 into the period.
Madden and Rafalski then took over.
"What can I say about them? They've been doing it for us all year," Devils center Bobby Holik said. "They have been doing what everyone else on this team has been doing. That's why we're where we are. Everyone is doing his job."
Madden, who led the NHL with six short-handed goals this season, had a chance to give the Devils the lead shortly after White was penalized for interference.
Madden, who has played in the shadow of Gomez, the rookie of the year favorite, broke into a Stars zone on a 2-on-1 but he missed the net with his snap shot at Ed Belfour.
After a short stay on the bench, Madden got back on the ice and the Stars again failed to keep the puck in the zone on a power play. Ken Daneyko pushed the puck to Sergei Nemchinov and he gave it to Madden, "Mad Dog" to his teammates. He came in on the very same play as his last chance, and snapped the shot from the right circle. This time he didn't miss and the Devils had the lead for good.
"When I went back to the bench after the first one [backup goaltender] Chris Terreri told me if I got the chance again 'Go low blocker' because you had him beat," Madden said. "That's what I did. I was lucky enough to have the same exact shot twice in about 30 seconds."
Rafalski, a 26-year-old who played the last two seasons in Finland, iced the game at 6:08 of the period. He collected a giveaway by Guy Carbonneau in center ice, skated around Sergei Zubov and whipped a shot past Belfour from the left circle for his second goal of the playoffs.
"I had to wait for Arnie [Arnott] and Patrik [Elias] to clear the zone and I saw space behind Zubov," said Rafalski, who has been paired all season with Stevens. "I went wide and was able to get past him and get off a good shot."
The three goals came on three shots.
"I think we're all disappointed, usually I'm there to make the save," Belfour said.