Work in Sports
DALLAS (Ticker) -- Three shots, three goals. Three down, one to go.
The New Jersey Devils moved within one win of their second Stanley Cup championship in six years with a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars as foot soldiers Sergei Brylin, John Madden and Brian Rafalski scored on consecutive shots in the third period.
New Jersey recorded its ninth road win of this year's playoffs -- one short of its own record -- against a team that was 9-1 at home before losing Game Three on Saturday. The Devils grabbed a three games to one lead in the best-of-seven series and can wrap it up at home on Thursday.
Blanked for two periods by Ed Belfour, the Devils struck with stunning swiftness in a 3:41 span of the third.
Brylin started the outburst at 2:27, batting a rebound of Alexander Mogilny's shot past Belfour for his third playoff goal and second in this series.
Mogilny started the play by carrying down the right boards and curling at the top of the faceoff circle before passing to defenseman Vladimir Malakhov. Malakhov drifted down the left side and centered to Mogilny at the top of the slot.
Devils rookie defenseman Colin White took an interference penalty 50 seconds later, but Madden put New Jersey in front at 4:51. Moments after missing the net on a 2-on-1, the rookie had another chance from an almost identical spot in the right circle and made no mistake, wristing the puck between Belfour's pads for his third playoff goal.
"When I had missed the first shot on the 2-on-1, I went back to the bench. I was told that if I get another chance to shoot again, go a little blocker (side) because you had him beat this time," said Madden, who led the league with six shorthanded goals during the season. "I got real lucky to have the same exact shot twice within about 30 seconds."
With Reunion Arena already quiet, the Devils went ahead 3-1 at 6:08. Patrik Elias got the puck in the neutral zone off a turnover by Guy Carbonneau. Elias quickly fed Rafalski, who skated past Mike Keane on the left side and flicked a wrister between Belfour's pads.
"Dallas was heading out of their zone, I was heading in," said Rafalski. "I had to wait for Arny (Jason Arnott) and Patty (Elias) to clear the zone, and I saw the space behind (Sergei) Zubov and went wide and was able to get past him and get a good shot off."
"That's what I'm counted on, coming up with the big save, and I didn't do it," Belfour said. "I'm disappointed in myself, and I have to play a lot better for us to win."
It was the 26-year-old rookie's second playoff goal and first since Game Three of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The outburst was even more unlikely, considering the defending Stanley Cup champions had not allowed more than two goals in their last 14 home playoff games and were 11-0 when leading after two periods.
"I'm not taking anything away from them, but we got our heart ripped out from us a little bit today," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We went from quite a high to quite a low. ...
You go from such a level of confidence and then all of a sudden, boom, you get hit so hard. And that is the story of their team.
They have done it all playoffs."
Martin Brodeur had no trouble protecting the lead, stopping just two shots after the outburst and finishing with 16 saves. He is 7-1 lifetime in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The only negative for the Devils was an injury to Arnott, their leading scorer who took a questionable hit to the head from Stars captain Derian Hatcher with 7:42 to play and did not return.
"I am not the referee so I can't call those," New Jersey coach Larry Robinson said. "Four of them out there, one didn't see it. I thought maybe he hit him with the stick, but he didn't.
With some of the penalties that were called, that definitely should have been a penalty."
"To be honest with you, I'm not really sure what happened," said Hatcher. "I got a glove in his face and I was surprised to see him on the ice. I don't know if it was the cleanest play, but there was a lot worse out there during the first three games."
Joe Nieuwendyk scored the lone goal for the Stars, who had won their previous nine games following a loss.
"We really don't know what happened," said center Mike Modano.
"We felt like we played a great 40 minutes, put ourselves in a great position to win the game. I think it is things that we are doing that are hurting ourselves -- our decisions with and without the puck, getting caught on the odd pinches here and there, allowing too many outnumbered situations."
Nieuwendyk's power-play tally with 1:58 left capped a strange second period in which both teams went long stretches without a shot.
Pointless in his previous five games, Nieuwendyk beat Brodeur to a loose puck in the crease and put in a backhander after Darryl Sydor's slap shot from above the left faceoff circle hit the skate of Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer.
It was the only productive power play of the night for the Stars, who failed to muster a shot on their previous two.
Brodeur came up big early in the period with stops on rookie Jon Sim and Scott Thornton. But the momentum shifted after New Jersey held the Stars without a shot during their second power play of the game.
The Devils also did not generate a shot for the first eight minutes of the period but went on the power play after Keane was penalized for boarding at 8:45. Rafalski broke up a shorthanded 2-on-1 by Dallas, and New Jersey nearly scored first when Elias put a rebound just inside the left goalpost. But Belfour got his paddle on it and Hatcher pushed the rebound back into his goaltender.
Dallas went back on the power play when Randy McKay was called for hooking at 11:59, but the Stars again could not generate a shot, drawing a smattering of boos from the crowd.
The Devils put Dallas back on the power play when Malakhov cross-checked Aaron Gavey in front of the net with 3:22 left.
When Brodeur gobbled up Brett Hull's one-time blast from the left circle, it was the Stars' first shot in more than nine minutes.
The Devils played keepaway for the first seven minutes of the game, limiting Dallas to one shot.
But the Stars came alive as Brenden Morrow made a one-handed move to get around defenseman Scott Stevens and tested Brodeur with a shot from the slot with 12:17 remaining. Modano got off a backhander on the rebound, but Brodeur gloved it while seated.
The Stars clearly had more jump and nearly grabbed the lead as a bad line change allowed Modano to come in alone of the left side. But Brodeur came sliding out to break up the chance just before the midpoint of the first period.
The Devils had the game's first two power plays, including one after defenseman Dave Manson slashed Madden on the left wrist with 2:33 remaining. But New Jersey managed only four shots during the two advantages.
McKay, who has not scored in 27 games, poked a rebound just wide of the left goalpost in the final minute, moments before Niedermayer took a holding penalty to give Dallas its first power play.
It was the first scoreless opening period of the series.