Work in Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- His son's team might have lost, but it was a night that Vladimir Bure could be proud.
Bure trainees Sergei Brylin and Scott Gomez scored big goals and the New Jersey Devils kept Vladimir's son in check in a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Pavel Bure, whose 58 goals during the regular season led the NHL by a landslide, has a strained relationship with his father. The two do not keep contact.
Vladimir Bure, a former Olympic swimmer who raised two sons to be offensive forces in the NHL, is personal trainer to a number of NHL players, including Gomez, Brylin and Devils defenseman Colin White. The elder Bure is here to root on his trainees and not answer questions about the sketchy relationship with his superstar son.
"You look at Pavel and Valeri," said Gomez, referring to his opponent and his brother, who stars for the Calgary Flames. "Vladdy, he's helped me, Whitey, Brylin and a couple of other guys in here."
Vladimir Bure even told a Florida newspaper that he is rooting for the Devils, because his heart is "with his Jersey boys."
Brylin grew up with Valeri Bure, so Vladimir, he says, was just like any other friend's father.
"It was a tough program for them," Brylin said of his teammates in the grueling offseason regimen. "I used to just tell him I couldn't go anymore (when I was exhausted)."
"Of course, there were days when we wanted to kill the guy," Gomez chuckled. "But he let us know it would help us. We worked to get ready for the later part of the season. Everything we did had a purpose, whether we were playing tennis or soccer or whatever. It helped to have goals."
Gomez is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. He made his father and his opponent's proud at 7:21 of the second period when he beat Mike Vernon with a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle to give the Devils a 4-2 lead. The puck appeared to hit Florida defenseman Mike Wilson in front of the net and trickle through Vernon's pads.
Gomez's parents remained in Alaska but he said he expects them to arrive in New Jersey on Friday. They were delayed while his sister began her soccer season, but he figured there were a slew of people watching the game on television.
"There's more than one kid, you know," he said.
Brylin beat Vernon high to the glove side with a heavy wrist shot from the left faceoff dot at 15:28 of the first period to stake New Jersey to a 3-0 lead.
"His program is designed to have you ready during the entire season," Brylin said. "He also gives you little things to do during the season to keep you going. It was a little different for those guys because they were not used to it. It was not that different for me because of the Russian training."
Florida got back into the game on goals by Rob Niedermayer and pugilist Peter Worrell in the final 3:05 of the opening period.
Niedermayer's older brother, Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer, served the final game of his 10-game suspension for hitting Worrell over the head with his stick on March 19. He will be back in the lineup for Game Two here Sunday night.
Each time the 6-6 Worrell touched the puck, he was lustily booed by the crowd. His goal, a slap shot from the top of the left circle that went over the surprised Martin Brodeur's glove, stunned and quieted the masses.
"I just wanted to get off the ice and I put it on net," said Worrell, who had three goals in 48 games during the regular season. "I don't expect fans in any arena to like me."
"It was great to see Pete have a great game," Florida captain Scott Mellanby said. "It's really nice to see some of the guys that do the dirty work all the time get a goal."
Pavel Bure finally got on the scoresheet with 6:10 left in the second period. He got an assist when he touched the puck in front of the net before Mike Sillinger beat Martin Brodeur from a sharp angle on the right side off a rebound.
Known as the "Russian Rocket," Bure nearly erased a 3-2 deficit 72 seconds into the second period when he swatted at a puck at the right side of the net. But Brodeur stacked his pads and smothered Bure's first shot of the game.
There was one penalty -- on Worrell -- through the first two periods. The other was with 14:26 left in the game when Vladimir Malakhov was whistled for interference, but the Panthers managed only one shot and iced the puck as the infraction expired.
Florida pulled Vernon for an extra attacker with 66 seconds remaining but could not manage a good chance at the equalizer.
Scott Stevens scored 98 seconds into the game and Petr Sykora tallied at 4:02 as New Jersey jumped to a 2-0 lead and showed no ill effects of a dreadful late-season slump.
"I've not seen a group of guys more nervous in the first period in many, many years," Florida coach Terry Murray said. "Nervousness was really a big factor in our locker room at the beginning of the game."
New Jersey's slide prompted general manager Lou Lamoriello to fire coach Robbie Ftorek and promote assistant Larry Robinson. It also cost the Devils the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They finished as the fourth seed behind division winners Philadelphia, Washington and Toronto.
Bure was kept in check as the line of Gomez, Brylin and 1995 Devils playoff hero Claude Lemieux joined Stevens and another rookie, defenseman Brian Rafalski, to keep him busy.
"I don't know, I just had a hunch," Robinson said of putting those forwards with Stevens, who has shadowed Bure in the past. "Brylin does a pretty good job at both ends of the rink. I felt that the other two guys can put enough pressure up the ice that Sergei could work with and handle Bure in the offensive zone."
Brylin and Gomez stole the spotlight from Lemieux, who was re-acquired in November because of his history as a top-flight playoff performer. After the final whistle, the noted antogonist and Vernon drew game misconducts, and Vernon was visibly agitated, yelling as he left the ice.
"Playing with Pepe (Lemieux), you could just feel the energy," said Gomez, who added that Brylin might have a chance to be the next Lemieux -- a player who performs significantly better in the playoffs.
"The adrenaline just goes up," Brylin explained of why he has trouble staying in the lineup in the regular season but steps up his game when it matters most. "You just go as hard as possible."
Devils center Jason Arnott did not return after the second period. He went to a local hospital for X-rays on his wrist and his status is unknown. Bobby Holik took his spot between Sykora and Patrik Elias on the Devils' No. 1 line.