Work in Sports
DALLAS (Ticker) -- There's a rapidly developing theme in the Stanley Cup Finals -- bouncing back.
Jason Arnott, Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias again proved elusive for the New Jersey Devils, who regained home-ice advantage with a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game Three.
Arnott scored late in the first period and set up Sykora's game-winner on the power play in the second as New Jersey's top line helped produce its second win of the series. The effort came four nights after Arnott, Sykora and Elias combined for 11 points but two nights after coach Larry Robinson nearly broke up the unit during a poor effort in Game Two.
"Unbelievable," Robinson said. "I told Patrik Elias after the game I was very proud of both of them. I talked to them before, and I think nobody feels worse than they do that they didn't come out and have a good game in Game Two. But it shows the true professionals they are when they come out tonight and just play a heckuva game."
"I thought that we can't afford our line to be playing the way we did in the second game to be winning in the playoffs," Sykora added. "I thought that we played a little better tonight. We tried to keep it simple. We didn't try to beat defensemen at their blue line. We didn't turn the puck over. This is the way we want to play."
Rookie defenseman Brian Rafalski set up both goals and Martin Brodeur made 22 saves for the Devils, who handed the defending Stanley Cup champions only their second loss in 11 home playoff games this year while improving to 8-2 on the road.
"I think it's overblown," New Jersey right wing Randy McKay said of home-ice advantage. "Everyone talks about how they wanted to come in and get home ice and a split. So they split, get home ice. We came here, we won the game. But we'll be just as disappointed if we don't win Game Four as we were after Game Two."
New Jersey also dropped Dallas to 11-2 when scoring first in the postseason. The team winning Game Three after splitting the first two has gone on to capture the Stanley Cup 18 of 21 times.
After dominating for a stretch of nearly 40 minutes, New Jersey held on at the end, killing a power play after Brodeur shot the puck over the boards and was penalized for delay of game with 4:15 left.
Brodeur also got his left shoulder on Jere Lehtinen's shot from the slot in the final minute, after the Stars pulled goaltender Ed Belfour for an extra attacker. Lehtinen also was foiled on a rebound with 5 1/2 minutes left after Brodeur corraled Joe Nieuwendyk's backhander with 12:11 to play -- Dallas' first shot of the final period.
"It certainly got the heart going, that's for sure," Devils defenseman Ken Danyeko said. "It was exciting, maybe a little too exciting at the end. But our team's got to be very pleased with our effort. We played very hard all night long."
"Once they get the lead, they're as good as any team in the league at shutting things down," said Stars center Joe Nieuwendyk, who does not have a point in the series. "They clog the neutral zone effectively and do a great job at forcing the play to the boards and the corners."
Sykora's goal highlighted a one-sided second period by New Jersey, which had a 16-9 edge in shots and drew the only two power plays.
The Devils nearly converted on the first after Game Two hero Brett Hull was penalized for interference in the offensive zone.
But Belfour kept the game tied by stopping Arnott's one-timer from the blue line and denying Elias, Sykora and Bobby Holik on rebounds.
Stars defenseman Sylvain Cote threw a retaliatory elbow at rookie John Madden and was penalized at 11:03. After Arnott curled a shot off the right goalpost and Elias missed from point-blank range, Sykora fired a one-timer from the blue line that tipped off Belfour's glove and found the net with 7:33 left in the period.
"I didn't see the second goal that well," Belfour said. "There was a lot of traffic in front of me and I did not get a good look."
Sykora has three goals and two assists in the series and leads New Jersey with nine playoff goals.
"I was trying to hit the net because I saw the goalie being screened," he said. "I think I would never score if the goalie wasn't screened because he was playing far out. So we have to give credit to the guys creating traffic."
The Devils did not let up after taking the lead. Belfour had to make a left pad stop on Arnott at the end of a 2-on-1 with just over four minutes remaining, then got his blocker on Madden's rebound attempt moments later.
In the first period, the Devils found themselves in an unfamiliar place -- the penalty box. After yielding just one power-play opportunity in the first two games, New Jersey gave up three in a 2:16 span.
Dallas cashed in on the first at 13:08, just 22 seconds after Sergei Nemchinov was penalized for slashing. Brodeur stopped Lehtinen's wrist shot from the left faceoff circle but was caught out of position on the rebound. Defenseman Scott Stevens put his clearing attempt right on the stick of Cote, who had no trouble putting the puck into an open net from the right circle.
"I was trying to recover it," Brodeur said. "I had it almost on my stick to pull it back towards me and Scotty has a reaction.
He just pushed it forward, right to the guy's stick. Kind of an unfortunate situation there a little bit."
It was Cote's second playoff goal and first in 10 games.
New Jersey defenseman Vladimir Malakhov was penalized for interference only 43 seconds later and teammate Claude Lemieux followed him to the box at 15:02, giving the Stars a two-man advantage for 49 seconds.
But the Stars managed only one shot, ceding momentum to the Devils, who took advantage. Belfour stopped a pair of solid chances by Elias before Arnott tied it with 1:54 to play in the period.
"That was the turning point, no question," Daneyko said.
"Everybody did a great job. Marty was there when we needed him.
If they go up 2-0, that's a pretty big hole to dig ourselves out of. But we killed it and Arny scores that late goal and gives our team some life."
Rafalski, victimized on the winning goal in Game Two, made a spectacular pass from his own blue line. It hit Arnott in stride at the Dallas blue line and the 6-4, 220-pound center split two defenders, freed his stick and pushed the puck between Belfour's pads for his third goal of the series.
"I got it and just split the 'D' and just kind of chipped it towards Belfour. It went through," said Arnott, who has seven goals in this year's playoffs after totaling five in 24 previous postseason games.
"I thought our defenseman had (Arnott's) stick tied up and I was going to pokecheck him," Belfour said. "He got his stick free there at the last second. I kind of wish I could have had that one back."