2001 Stanley Cup Finals
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Stanley Cup Notebook

A fast start key to the Devils' Cup success

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Saturday May 26, 2001 7:17 PM
Updated: Sunday May 27, 2001 1:20 AM
  Scott Gomez Scott Gomez wants the Devils to take the all-important Game 1 from the Avs. David Leeds/Allsport

DENVER (AP) -- Never underestimate the importance of winning Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. History says so.

Since the NHL implemented the best-of-seven championship format in 1939, the team winning the opening game has gone on to win the title 79 percent of the time (49 of 62).

The New Jersey Devils won Game 1 en route to the Cup last season, and the Dallas Stars did it in 1999.

Colorado's 5-0 win over the Devils Saturday night gave the Avalanche the inside track in the chase for their second Stanley Cup since 1996.

"That first game is an important one," Devils forward Scott Gomez said on the eve of the opener. "That's the one we really want."

They didn't get it, but a win in Game 2 here on Tuesday night would keep the Devils in contention.

"We want to get one out of here," Gomez added.

Colorado coach Bob Hartley said Game 1 "is always very important," but particularly in Colorado's case. "We want to take advantage of home ice," he said. "Tonight we did."

Added center Joe Sakic, "We wanted to get off to a good start and try to set the tone and get that first win, especially at home."

Bad break

Devils wing Randy McKay broke his left hand in a collision with Colorado's Ray Bourque in the second period.

McKay was hit by Bourque at 4:02 of the period, immediately grimaced and grabbed his left hand and crumpled to the ice.

He was assisted to the X-ray facility at Pepsi Center, where the fracture was confirmed.

McKay said he expected to miss "a couple of games, probably, for sure. If it gets better, I'll try at the end of the week. We can tape it and see if I can play.

"He caught my hand and jammed it up. I wasn't sure if it was my wrist or my hand when I got in. They said it was my two fingers on the outside. Right now, there is no way I can hold a stick."

Bourque said the puck was coming to McKay and the Devils player "saw me at the last second and couldn't adjust. I kind of stood him up and just caught part of him. I think I must have caught his wrist or something with the upper part of my body. I think I just kind of jammed him."

McKay had scored nine points in the playoffs on six goals and three assists.

Untouchable

Patrick Roy extended his shutout streak in the Stanley Cup finals to 213 minutes, 12 seconds -- the second-longest streak in finals history and the longest since NHL clubs began competing exclusively for the Stanley Cup in 1927.

Since allowing a goal to Florida's Rob Niedermayer at 11:19 of the first period in Game 3 of the 1996 finals, Roy has been untouchable. He blanked the Panthers for the remaining 48:41 of that game, for 104:31 in the Avalanche's triple-overtime victory in Game 4 and for 60 minutes Saturday night.

Asked if he remembered who scored the last goal against him in the finals, Roy showed a partial recollection.

"I know it was against the Panthers," he said. "It was in the first period, but that's all I can remember."

Clint Benedict recorded the longest streak, 229:22, from March 29, 1923, through April 3, 1926. Benedict's streak included Ottawa's victories over the West Coast Hockey League champion Edmonton Eskimos in the 1923 Stanley Cup finals, and Montreal's wins over the WHL champion Victoria Cougars in 1926.

Winning Streak

Roy is 9-0 in the finals since Game 1 of the 1993 championship series, when his Montreal Canadiens bowed to the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. He won the next four games of that series and all four games in Colorado's 1996 win over Florida.

Over that span, he has a 1.20 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage.

The record for consecutive wins in the finals is 11, set by Montreal's Ken Dryden from May 10, 1973, through May 16, 1978.

Bouncing Czechs

Entering the finals, the top three scorers in the 2001 Stanley Cup playoffs were from the Czech Republic.

Colorado's Milan Hejduk (7 goals, 13 assists) is from Usti-Nad-Labem, New Jersey's Petr Sykora (8 goals, 10 assists) is from Plzen and teammate Patrik Elias (7 goals, 11 assists) is from Trebic.

Elias carried a 10-game points streak (5 goals, 9 assists) into the finals. Linemate Sykora had a nine-game streak (9, 7), and the contribution of center Jason Arnott -- who together are called "The A Train" or "The A Line" -- had 38 points (17, 21) over the 10 games.

Slap Shots

Sakic's second goal was the first four-on-four goal given up by the Devils in the playoffs. ... Sakic, who had three points in Saturday night's game, increased his league-leading goal total to 11. Ten of Sakic's 20 points have come in series-opening games ... The Avalanche improved to 10-0 when they have scored the first goal in these playoffs. New Jersey is now 3-6 when allowing the first goal of the game.

 
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