Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Devils work their magic on Senators

NHL New Jersey is going to the Stanley Cup finals following its 3-2 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against a team that never gave up

AP , OTTAWA

Jeff Friesen rescued the New Jersey Devils when it looked like they couldn't hold on any longer.

Friesen got behind the Ottawa defense, took a brilliant pass from Grant Marshall and scored with 2:14 left Friday night, sending the Devils into the Stanley Cup finals with a 3-2 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Devils led the series 3-1 before dropping consecutive games for the first time in the postseason. That got the Presidents' Trophy-winning Senators into a deciding game few thought would occur.

Ottawa took an early lead when Magnus Arvedson scored 3:33 in, but Jamie Langenbrunner scored goals 1:54 apart to put New Jersey in front.

Radek Bonk tied it for the Senators in the opening minutes of the third period, and Ottawa pressed hard for the go-ahead goal that suddenly ended up in their own net.

Marshall got a pass from the left circle between the legs of Ottawa defenseman Wade Redden and onto the stick of Friesen, who was all alone in front and got a shot by Patrick Lalime to silence a frenzied crowd that felt destiny was in their team's hands.

Instead, the Devils are the Eastern Conference champions for the third time in four years. They will face the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for the Stanley Cup with Game 1 in New Jersey on Tuesday night. Friesen also scored the game-winning goals in Games 2 and 4 of this series.

It was a bitter ending for the Senators, who overcame bankruptcy, late pay checks and a checkered playoff history in a stirring season.

Ottawa was the NHL's top team in the regular season with 113 points, and seemed poised to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in its 11-year history. The Senators won Game 5 at home, the first time they ever avoided elimination, and they took Game 6 on the road on Wednesday night.

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