Those darn Devils
New Jersey has a streak going, their mean streak
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils have a streak going in the Stanley Cup finals -- and, no, it's not one that will show up in any record book.
It's their mean streak.
Unusually passive in a 5-0 loss to Colorado in Game 1, the Devils were at their in-your-face best in a 2-1 victory in Game 2 Tuesday that evened the series and gave them the chance to take control with the next two games on home ice.
Game 3 will be Thursday night at the Meadowlands, where the Avalanche are 0-7-3 in their last 10 games.
"If we had been down 2-0, we would have been in bad shape," Devils forward Scott Gomez said Wednesday. "We're in good shape at 1-1."
The Devils downplayed any talk of intimidation -- coach Larry Robinson said it doesn't exist at this level of hockey -- but it was evident they wanted to remind the Avalanche who they were playing in Game 2. There were spitting gestures, face-washing with gloves and a stick to the face that left Colorado's Eric Messier a bloody mess.
The Devils argue their style of play is tight defense, hard checking and plenty of scoring chances set up by patience, persistence and turnovers. However, if some rough stuff enters into the mix, too, well, that's all right.
New Jersey doesn't know how it lost its toughness in Game 1, but doesn't intend to let go of it now that it is back.
"We bounced back and played the way we should have played to start the series," said Turner Stevenson, whose first goal of the playoffs turned out to be the game-winner in Game 2.
The player most responsible for setting the intensified tone was defenseman Scott Stevens, whose bully-boy personality returned as quickly as it vanished in Game 1, when he was on the ice for three Colorado goals. In Game 2, he was caught by TV cameras spitting derisively in the direction of the Avalanche bench and rubbing his glove across forward Chris Drury's face.
"He was the old Scott Stevens as we know him," Robinson said.
Asked what that might be, Stevens said, "Chippy, and in your face."
"It felt a lot more like the Stanley Cup finals than the first game did," Stevens said. "We've got to keep that emotion and play with high intensity."
Of course, the Devils also might want to score some goals, considering they are rather fortunate to be tied at 1 after allowing the first six goals of the series and scoring only two themselves.
The A-Line of Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora, so vital to the Devils winning the cup last year, has yet to score in the series. Also, Alexander Mogilny has a 12-game streak without a goal, and Gomez has gone 11 games without a goal.
The Devils will have the last line change at home, which means Robinson might get the A-Line away from the defensive pairing of Ray Bourque and Adam Foote that has so effectively controlled New Jersey's top line so far.
"Look at that defense," Mogilny said. "It's incredible. They move the puck. They skate and shoot, and they have one of the best goaltenders [Patrick Roy] in the league. There is no surprise."
Except, perhaps, that it took the Devils a game to reclaim their personality.
"You have to give yourself the opportunity to play physical, and I don't think we did that [in Game 1]," Stevens said. "We stood around and we weren't very aggressive. We were passive, and that's not our style."