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Give The DEVILS Their Due
Michael Farber
June 16, 2003
In a compelling finish to the Stanley Cup finals, resilient New Jersey outlasted the Mighty Ducks to win its third championship in nine years
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June 16, 2003

Give The Devils Their Due

In a compelling finish to the Stanley Cup finals, resilient New Jersey outlasted the Mighty Ducks to win its third championship in nine years

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The check was textbook Stevens: elbow tucked in, shoulder flush to the jaw of the 5'10", 180-pound Kariya, who was splattered with 13:48 left in the period, the back of his head bouncing off the ice. He lay supine, an inanimate snow angel. "Seeing that [is] not a good feeling," said Petr Sykora, Kariya's right wing and Stevens's former teammate in New Jersey. "I know how it is"—Sykora was knocked out of Game 6 of the 2000 Cup finals because of an elbow thrown by Dallas Stars defenseman Derian Hatcher—"and how it can affect a team."

Two minutes later Kariya rose and was helped to the bench by teammates, then escorted to the dressing room (or maybe to Lourdes). Craig Milhouse, a Ducks physician, went through a checklist of neuropsychological questions to be sure that Kariya was not on the planet Zoltron, but Kariya's eyes were clear and he was lucid. "We were talking to him, and finally he said, 'I'm ready to go. Let's go,' " Milhouse said after the match. "I think he was tired of being asked questions."

Kariya, who started using a mouthpiece and thicker padding in his helmet after a cheap shot by Gary Suter in 1998 caused a serious concussion (his second since turning pro in 1994-95), answered any lingering questions when he rejoined the bench with 9:14 remaining in the period. "After that hit," fourth-line winger Dan Bylsma said, "he looked like a guy who really wanted the puck." Kariya found it late in that second period. Capping a brilliant three minutes of up-and-down hockey—perhaps the most entertaining stretch of a Cup final in a decade—Kariya skated down the left wing and fired a shot past Brodeur's glove from just above the face-off circle. Last rites had turned into a last laugh. "It was inspiring after his problems with concussions," Anaheim right wing Steve Thomas said later. "But you're not going to keep a guy like that in the dressing room in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals."

Coach Mike Babcock did, however, keep him on the bench for most of the third period, playing Kariya just 3:32. Like Brodeur, who was excused by Devils coach Pat Burns with about 11� minutes to go, he was resting for the 12th Game 7 in Stanley Cup finals history.

The Devils played a near-perfect Game 7, sealing the Anaheim attack and getting two goals from left wing Jeff Friesen, a former Duck. Coming off two shaky games, Brodeur was in control, stopping 24 shots and handling the puck smartly. He did a good job handling the Cup too. Of course, he's had plenty of practice.

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