Devils do everything to give Avs the win
Updated: Friday June 08, 2001 2:28 AM
By Jamie MacDonald, CNNSI.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils gave this one away. Not in the sense of the athletespeak cliché-mill that churns out such gems as "one game at a time," and not in the figurative sense as if they were in complete control of Game 6.
It may have taken Colorado until the 10:17 mark of the first period, on a power play no less, to record its first shot, but while Patrick Roy was busy thwarting the Devils, his teammates played patient hockey, weathered the outnumbered scoring chances and waited for the Devils, any Devil would do, to give them a lead.
And that's when Scott Gomez, a stationary target on the boards near the red line late in the first period, lost a one-sided game of chicken with an oncoming train named Chris Dingman. Gomez pushed the puck into the center of the ice without a destination. In the hierarchy of passing errors, this was just less damning than the cross-ice pass across your defensive zone.
"I thought I had a guy [in the center]," Gomez said later. "I saw Dingman coming and I tried to make a pass. It was a bad play on my part."
A running joke between forwards and defensemen then played itself out. There is a notion that defensemen are merely frustrated forwards waiting for an opportunity to get into open ice and do something pretty. Well, with Gomez's pass drifting into the center no faster than it might have in a game of shuffleboard, Foote gathered the puck and drove to his right. To his left, the sturdy defenseman had two forwards zipping up the left side. But Foote made like a puckhogging forward, ignoring both teammates on a developing 3-on-2. He had armchair coaches trying to will him to pass the puck, much like a mother might instinctively reach for brake in the passanger's seat as her son speeds into a stoplight.
Foote ran that stoplight, wound up, using Ken Sutton as a screen, and hammered a 1-0 lead past Martin Brodeur. Just two minutes earlier, Foote strayed into the New Jersey zone deep enough for Devils forward John Madden to turn the puck the other direction and into a scoring chance. But Foote's call on this attempt was beyond reproach.
"We felt we needed more shots and more traffic at Brodeur," said Foote, not normally known as an offensive contributor. "If we can get some shots on him and hope one goes in, hey, then that's good luck for us."
In Game 4, despite controlling the play, New Jersey fell into a one-goal deficit, but regrouped. Game 6 would not see the same resiliency.
"We didn't get one early," Madden said. "And that might have been the difference. But we were playing some pretty good hockey right off the bat and one of their goals just killed us."
What the first goal was to demoralizing for the Devils, the second goal was to devastating. This goal, too, was the direct result of careless misdirection of the puck.
With Bobby Holik in the box for roughing, a call that came only 29 seconds after the intermission, and Colorado able to set up its power play, as was the case almost throughout Game 6, Devils defenseman Colin White pulled the pin on a grenade. The Avalanche were moving the puck cleanly around their power play setup -- low to high, side to side -- when it skirted near White. Perhaps with more experience, White doesn't take such a low-percentage swipe at the puck. Perhaps with more experience, White finds an accurate way to move the puck into a less dangerous area.
White's hurried effort chipped the puck right to Colorado's defensemen, while New Jersey's penalty killers scrambled to get back into position. Foote one-touched a pass to Martin Skoula who took an off-balance snapshot off his back foot. Ville Nieminen happened to be crossing in front of Brodeur's crease and he tipped home the 2-0 lead.
"When you have the two best teams in the league playing against each other," said Holik, "and one of them gets up one or two goals, it's tough to come back. That was the case. They got the goals when they desperately needed them and we didn't."
What the Avalanche got were two goals by playing composed hockey. "It is a game of mistakes," said Joe Sakic. "You know, we tried, forced the play [in Game 5]. We got burnt. We are going to make sure we come out like [Thursday], and wait for our opportunity."
Opportunity knocks for both teams Saturday.