Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Devils hoist third Cup

Brodeur prevents Hollywood ending for Mighty Ducks

The Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Stanley Cup feels right at home in New Jersey.


Photos of Monday's Game 7
The Devils, riding the greatest home-ice advantage in NHL playoffs history and a goal from one of the unlikeliest Game 7 stars ever, ended the Mighty Ducks' surreal season and won the Stanley Cup with a 3-0 victory Monday night.

Mike Rupp, who had never appeared in a playoff game until Game 4, scored the first goal and set up Jeff Friesen for the other two. Friesen scored five goals in the series, all at home.

The Devils swept all four games at home - all with the second period proving decisive - in the first finals since 1965 and only the third in which the home team won every game. The Ducks rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to force a Game 7 by winning all three in Anaheim.

Never has the home-ice edge been more important to a Stanley Cup winner. The Devils were a record 12-1 at home, allowing only 13 goals. They outscored the Ducks 15-3 in the four games in New Jersey, with each decided by three goals.

"We feel really at ease playing in our own building. The only reason we won the Stanley Cup is because we were so dominant in our own building," said goalie Martin Brodeur, who turned aside 24 shots in his third shutout of the series.

The Devils won their third Stanley Cup in nine seasons - matching the Red Wings for the most since the Edmonton Oilers won their fifth Cup in 1990. "This makes up for that bad time against the Colorado Avalanche," said Devils captain Scott Stevens. The Devils would have had a fourth Cup if they hadn't lost a 3-2 series lead and the Cup to Colorado in 2001.

Brodeur outdueled Jean-Sebastien Giguere, whose remarkable goaltending earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff most valuable player. He was only the fifth player to win the Conn Smythe on the losing team and first since Philadelphia's Ron Hextall in 1987.

The Ducks had won only one previous playoff series in their 10-year history, upsetting the defending champion Red Wings and top-seeded Dallas Stars

In the end, though, the jig was up for Jiggy and a straight-out-of-Hollywood season for the Ducks, who were trying to match the World Series champion Anaheim Angels by winning a totally unexpected championship seven months apart.

By preventing seventh-seeded Anaheim from becoming the lowest-seeded Stanley Cup winner ever, Rupp wrote his name alongside Game 7 stars as Henri Richard, Ray Bourque and Mark Messier.

Rupp hadn't played since early May and was skating only with the non-active players after practice before being unexpectedly pressed into the lineup by coach Pat Burns in Game 5. He played well enough to start getting regular shifts, but neither Rupp nor Burns could have expected this.

After both goalies enjoyed strong first periods, Rupp scored the pivotal first goal that has proven so important, with the Devils going 11-0 when they score first.

Only 2:22 into the second period, Scott Niedermayer's shot from the blue line was deflected by Rupp between Giguere's pads as the goalie moved to his left. Sensing how important the goal was, Giguere angrily pushed the puck out of his net.

"The second period has been our downfall here," said a dejected Adam Oates of Anaheim.

Niedermayer assisted on both goals to win his third Cup and deny his brother, Anaheim forward Rob Niedermayer, his first.

Less than 10 minutes after Rupp scored his first playoff goal in only his fourth playoff game, he gathered Niedermayer's rebound and tipped it to Friesen, who scored his fourth goal of the series but first since Game 2. Friesen had three goals as the Devils won each of the first two games 3-0.

Game 7's at a glance since 1971

Since the NHL expanded from the Original Six teams in 1967, the championship round has gone the distance just five times:

Season Home team-Road team Winner (score)
2002-03 New Jersey- Anaheim New Jersey 3-0
2000-01 Colorado-New Jersey Colorado 3-1
1993-94 N.Y. Rangers- Vancouver N.Y. Rangers 3-2
1986-87 Edmonton- Philadelphia Edmonton 3-1
1970-71 Chicago- Montreal Montreal 3-2

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