Moments later he scored the biggest goal of his career and sent
his team to the finals.
Friesen put the Devils in front for good with 2:14 left as New
Jersey beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 Friday night in Game 7 of the
Eastern Conference finals.
His turnover in the opening minutes of the third period led to
Radek Bonk's tying goal at 1:53. But inspirational words from coach
Pat Burns and several teammates -- including injured forward Joe
Nieuwendyk -- kept him focused and ready to shine.
"I made a bad play at their blue line," Friesen said. "I
couldn't believe it, there was a lot going on in my mind."
At that time there weren't too many thoughts that he would score
his third game-winner of the series. But Friesen got behind the
Ottawa defense, took a brilliant pass from Grant Marshall and put
the puck in.
"I couldn't even react, I couldn't even describe what that was
like," Friesen said. "It just happened to work out that I got a
chance to get that big goal."
The Devils, champions in 2000 and finalists in 2001, 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.
"We weren't disappointed when we came here for Game 7 because
we knew it was a one-game series and the team we were playing was
an unbelievable hockey team," Friesen said.
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. The goal silenced a frenzied crowd that
felt destiny was in their team's hands.
"We battled back. A great year in there," Senators goalie
Patrick Lalime said. "We showed a lot of character coming back."
But 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, traded to New Jersey from Anaheim last summer, 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
"Our goal was to go further. It's starting to hit me now,"
Redden said. "It happened so quick there, it's a tough one."
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.
Legions of fans, including Canadian Prime Minister Jean
Chretien, packed the Corel Centre and were sent into a frenzy when
Arvedson scored his first playoff goal. It seemed to bode well for
the Senators, who were 7-0 when scoring first this postseason and
36-2-3 when leading after 20 minutes.
Before this year, the Senators had never won a playoff series in
which they were the higher seed. They dispatched the New York
Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers in the first two rounds before
meeting the well-rested Devils.
New Jersey was in danger of losing a series it led 3-1 for the
first time. Instead the Devils raised their record to 5-6 in Game
Ottawa hoped to be the first Canadian team to reach the Stanley
Cup finals since Vancouver in 1994.
The Senators had the jump from the latter stages of the second
period through the first half of the third, when the Senators gave
New Jersey its first two power plays 2:24 apart. New Jersey's defense nearly did in goaltender Martin Brodeur
with six minutes left. Colin White nearly put the puck in his own
net as he lost control was skating back toward Brodeur. Scott
Niedermayer turned it over twice in front, but Brodeur covered.
The Devils sagged back on defense in the final five minutes of
the second, trying to hold on. They did, even killing off a penalty
that spanned the second and third periods, until Bonk beat Brodeur.
Langenbrunner tied it 3:52 into the second and then put the
Devils in front at 5:46. He was the Devils' biggest offensive force
in their first two rounds against Boston and Tampa Bay -- both
five-game victories -- when he scored seven goals.
Ottawa took a 1-0 lead soon after Lalime stopped Nieuwendyk's
shot off a rebound and extended a New Jersey flurry.
Arvedson, who had 16 goals in the regular season, hadn't scored
in 23 games -- dating to March 22.
Nieuwendyk, injured in overtime of Game 6, was back on the
ice but only played three shifts before leaving with a hip injury.
... Langenbrunner had four two-goal games in the regular season,
including one against Anaheim. ... The Senators are 0-3 in Game 7s.
The previous two were on the road. ... New Jersey held a 27-26
shots advantage. Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play.