Fri, May 02, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Stevens a Devil's curse for Lightning

NHL The league's top defense made it hard for Tampa Bay to score and now the boys from New Jersey are only one more win away from taking the Eastern Conference

AP , TAMPA, FLORIDA AND ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA

New Jersey Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur, right, and team captain Scott Stevens celebrate their 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in their second-round NHL playoff game on Wednesday. Brodeur and Marcus Naslund of the Vancouver Canucks were selected as finalists earlier in the day for the Hart Trophy, given to the NHL's most valuable player.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Scott Stevens scored a goal and anchored another strong performance by the NHL's top defense Tuesday as the New Jersey Devils beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Wednesday to move within one victory of the Eastern Conference finals.

Scott Gomez and Patrik Elias also scored for New Jersey, and Martin Brodeur had nine of his 25 saves in the third period. The Devils return home with a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is Friday night.

Stevens missed all but 77 seconds of Game 3 Monday after Pavel Kubina's slap shot hit him in the side of the face, opening a cut that required 15 stitches.

Mighty Ducks 1, Stars 0

In Anaheim, California, Mike Leclerc scored on a power play with 1:47 remaining, and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere earned his first playoff shutout as Anahiem beat Dallas.

The Ducks lead the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals 3-1. The series returns to Dallas for Game 5 on Saturday. Game 6, if necessary, will be in Anaheim on Monday.

Giguere, who is in his first postseason and has keyed the surprising Ducks' success, had 28 saves.

With Dallas' Jason Arnott off for crosschecking, Sandis Ozolinsh made a cross-ice pass to Leclerc, who wristed a shot from 6m that beat goalie Marty Turco high on the glove side.

The goal, which came on Anaheim's 22nd and final shot of the game, was Leclerc's second score in the postseason.

Canucks get wild

The Vancouver Canucks took the best page out of Minnesota's playbook in Game 3 and pasted it into theirs.

Even though they didn't want to admit it.

"We played our style," coach Marc Crawford insisted. "We try to play to the best of our ability."

Clogging the passing lanes, playing physically on the boards, forcing turnovers and managing only 13 shots on goal, the Canucks looked a lot like the Wild in their 3-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Crawford was asked Wednesday if the Canucks were happy with the way they won -- playing Minnesota's type of game instead of the more offensive-minded style Vancouver usually shows.

``We're encouraged we won,'' Crawford said. ``We look no further than that.''

Vancouver leads the second-round series 2-1. Game 4 is Friday night in St. Paul.

The Canucks won Tuesday's tightly officiated game with strong special teams play. The Wild's penalty kill was fourth in the NHL this year, but they allowed three power-play goals for only the second time this season.

Vancouver was 3-for-6 with the man advantage in a game dominated by penalty minutes -- 40 were handed out.

The Canucks have effectively used their defensemen, mostly Ed Jovanovski and Brent Sopel, on the power play. They rushed the net and made it difficult for the Wild to defend.

"Our guys are good at joining the attack," Crawford said. "They spot where coverages are lax and take advantage."

Said Minnesota forward Marian Gaborik: "We have to do a better job of covering them when they drive to the net."

The Canucks scaled back their approach a bit Tuesday, trying to keep the crowd from being a factor.

"You can't open it up against these guys," said Vancouver center Brendan Morrison. ``They're such a good team at counter-attacking that you have to play it simple.''

That's pretty much what the Canucks did in Game 3, seizing back the home-ice advantage they had to start the series as the higher seed. Although that doesn't seem to mean much in hockey, especially in the playoffs: The Wild are 1-3 at home and 4-2 on the road in the postseason.

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