Still not good enough
A-Line still having problems despite scoring on Avs
Updated: Friday June 01, 2001 12:45 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Scotty Gomez was benched. Larry Robinson is annoyed. Martin Brodeur thinks some teammates are panicking. The A-Line has gone into seclusion.
Make no mistake. After being beaten 3-1 by the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals Thursday night, the defending champion New Jersey Devils are in trouble.
And it goes beyond being down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
"There is always a problem when you don't come to work and you don't stick to the game plan," Robinson said after his team was outplayed for the second time in three games in the finals. "You are not going to win a lot of games when you only have eight or nine guys playing. We didn't have enough guys competing tonight."
Brodeur was one of the few players who was outstanding in defeat, but even the Devils goaltender was frustrated seeing his team two losses from giving up the Cup. He insisted all New Jersey has to do is play a full game.
"There is no secret how we win," Brodeur said. "It's when we work hard and don't let ourselves get down because of things that happen on the ice. Right now I think we are on the edge. It's been a long playoff for everybody. When things go wrong a lot of guys are panicking. It's time for us to be confident about ourselves and being poised out there."
The Devils' top line of Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora -- the A-Line -- played its best game of the series, scoring the team's only goal while generating at least a half dozen good scoring chances.
However, the trio showed no poise after the loss. They didn't even bother to stay in the locker to answer questions.
Arnott wasn't there to talk about either his goal or his boarding penalty that set up Ray Bourque's game-winning goal early in the third period.
Elias wasn't there to talk about the fluky play that almost led to a go-ahead goal following a giveaway by Avs goaltender Patrick Roy late in the second period.
Sykora wasn't there to discuss his four shots, three of which were excellent scoring opportunities.
One of the few guys who did answer questions was Gomez, who was benched by Robinson after the Devils fell behind on third-period goals by Bourque and Dan Hinote.
"You have to go with the guys that are going," said a visibly annoyed Gomez, who hasn't scored a point in eight games. "It wasn't my decision. It was the coach's decision."
Gomez was just as straight forward when it came to the Devils' chances.
"Don't count us out," he said. "We know what we are capable of doing and tomorrow we'll go back to work. The bottom line is we have to win Saturday."
The A-Line, which had combined for 22 goals and 27 assists in 18 playoff games, came close to giving them a win Thursday.
Arnott scored on a power play early to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead and the provide his line's first points of the finals.
The one play everybody will remember came in the final minute of the second period with Elias and Sykora killing off Arnott's penalty for boarding Adam Foote.
With the final seconds of the period ticking off and the game tied 1-1, Elias stole the puck from Roy along the sideboards.
As Roy backpedaled toward his net, Elias turned and faced an open net guarded only by defenseman Rob Blake. His shot slid across the ice and clanged off the goalpost.
"It was a play I should not have tried," Roy said. "I don't think he could have scored. It would have hit my pad if it was on net. But I was not pleased with myself. It was a bad decision."
Instead of a 2-1 lead entering the final period, the Devils had 62 seconds of Arnott's penalty to kill off.
They failed to do it.
Thirty-one seconds into the final period, Bourque made Arnott pay for the penalty by drilling a slapshot past Brodeur.
"I saw it," said Brodeur, who made 18 saves. "It took me a while to see him, because I didn't know where he was. He kept moving with the crowd. When he got out of the crowd he was stepping into the slapshot.
"He made a good shot," Brodeur added. "He shot it right at my shoulder. I put my glove there instead of keeping my shoulder there and it went off my glove."
Sykora had a couple of great chances on a power play later in the period to close the 3-1 gap but Roy stopped him cold.
That's the way it's gone for the A-Line this series.