Work in Sports
Believe it, Arnott!
Devils take Stanley Cup out of Reunion Arena
By Chris Stevenson, SLAM! Sports
DALLAS -- Okay, so it's not the Canyon of Heroes in New York.
It's not Ste-Catherine St. in Montreal.
The parking lot in the Meadowlands Sports Complex, a barren piece of pavement hard by the New Jersey Turnpike, doesn't have the atmosphere or the reputation of those two more famous parade routes, but it does have something those two can't claim: its second Stanley Cup parade in five years.
The Devils finally put down the Dallas Stars, the game, proud and scrappy defending champions, with a 2-1 win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final at the Reunion Arena Saturday night.
Jason Arnott put a quick, high shot behind Stars goaltender Ed Belfour from the edge of the crease at 8:20 of the second overtime period to end another toe-to-toe, drag 'em out marathon, giving the Devils a 4-2 edge in the best-of-seven series and set up another celebration in the parking lot outside the Continental Airlines Arena.
Funny how things turn out.
Arnott was lucky to still be around to score the winner after he delivered a vicious cross check to the neck of Dallas' Blake Sloan near the end of the first overtime period as Sloan lay on the ice. It could have easily been a major and a game misconduct, but Arnott escaped with just a minor and the Devils penalty killers, outstanding throughout the playoffs, did the job.
"I don't even know how to describe it," said Arnott, who came into his own as bonafide power forward in this post-season. "I never knew what happened. I knew I had to roof it because that was going to be the only way to beat [Belfour]. After that it was just a blur."
"It's easy for us to say keep your calm," said Devils coach Larry Robinson, "but there was so much tension, you could cut it with a chain saw, it was so thick. It wasn't a good penalty, but I think he made up for it."
Arnott did just that when he took a sizzling backhand pass from Patrick Elias out of the corner to the left of Belfour to Arnott who was left alone to snap home the winner. The win was the Devils 10th on the road this post-season, tying the record they set in their Cup win in 1995.
The Devils rallied around the loss of winger Petr Sykora, who left the game on a stretcher after a high hit from Dallas defenceman Derian Hatcher, one of several vicious hits in the last couple of games. Robinson, who hurdled over the boards after Arnott's winner, made a poignant gesture by wearing Sykora's sweater when he hefted the Cup during the on-ice celebration.
"We said we have to do this for our boy," said Arnott of his linemate. "There's no question that goal was for him."
The Devils' leading goal scorer in the post-season was nailed at the 12-minute mark of the first period as he cut across the ice just inside the Stars blue line.
Sykora went down and did not move, his head cocked to the right.
He was put on a backboard and taken off on a stretcher. He underwent a CAT scan and was being kept in hospital over night.
"I'll take the Cup to him [in the hospital] myself, if I have to," said Arnott.
"He was just coming across the blue line with his head down and I just stepped into him," said Hatcher, who had knocked Arnott out of Game 4 with a high shot to the head which broke a six-tooth bridge in Arnott's mouth.
"I'm not sure what happened, but they said he is moving and talking, everything is okay. That is the important thing."
The Stars suffered their own loss, losing defenceman Darryl Sydor with a high ankle sprain early in the first.
Though short on manpower, the two teams showed tremendous heart and dedication in another gritty game in which Belfour and the Devils' Martin Brodeur dominated.
The lone goals in regulation time came in the second period as the two teams opened things up. The pace obviously didn't suffer despite all the energy expended 48 hours earlier in Thursday night/Friday morning's 106-minute marathon.
The Devils scored first, short-handed, as Jersey winger Claude Lemieux tripped up Dallas defenceman Sylvain Cote at the blue line to break the Devils into the neutral zone on a 3-on-1.
Lemieux freed the puck for Jay Pandolfo, who gave it back to Lemieux, who pushed it ahead to defenceman Scott Niedermayer, bursting up on the play. He skated in and beat Belfour with a forehander that hit Belfour and just trickled over the line. It ended Belfour's shutout streak at 145 minutes and 31 seconds.
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Stars answered back just 69 seconds later when Mike Keane beat Brodeur with a rising shot. The play was started by Dallas centre Mike Modano, who was being double shifted after playing about 44 minutes in Game 5.
From that point on, it was a fierce battle with neither Brodeur nor Belfour giving an inch.
"I think hockey can be really, really proud of the last two games that were played here," said Robinson. "The other night in Jersey and tonight, I don't think you are ever going to see two buildings that are more tense with people sitting on the edge of their seats than those last two games."
But in the end, only one team was left standing.