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Devils dominant at home again to win Cup

6/10/2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Never has the Stanley Cup felt more
at home than in the New Jersey swamp.

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 Anaheim Mighty Ducks' remarkable postseason
run and won the Cup with a 3-0 victory Monday night.

Mike Rupp, who hadn't appeared in a playoff game until being
called on in 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
games in Anaheim.

"It's been a bumpy ride, with a great deal of adversity,''
goalie Martin Brodeur said.

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 four games in New Jersey,
all 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 Brodeur, who turned aside 24 shots in his
third shutout of the series, all at home.

The Devils' John Madden credited coach Pat Burns with
establishing the need to win at home.

"It starts with Pat,'' Madden said. "Previously our record at
home was terrible. But he said were going to compete hard and play
hard ... in our building.''

And who says there wasn't a triple crown winner this year?

The Devils, despite lacking the huge payroll and plethora of
stars that Detroit does, 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 most valuable
player in the playoffs. He was only the fifth player to win the
Conn Smythe on the losing team and first since Philadelphia's Ron
Hextall in 1987.

Giguere never smiled as he accepted the MVP trophy to the boos
of the New Jersey fans and the applause of the Devils players,
immediately leaving the ice in tears. He was almost in tears even
before the game ended.

"It's tough to lose like that,'' Giguere said. "It was really
tough to see them (the Devils) cheer. ... Like I said, this is not
the one you want. You want the big silver one.''

Brodeur said Giguere deserved the award and "I got the one I
wanted.''

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 consecutive rounds.

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 -- an unknown name even
to most Devils fans until a few games ago -- wrote his name
alongside finals Game 7 stars such as Henri Richard, Ray Bourque
and Mark Messier.

"I never would have thought this was possible,'' Rupp said. "I
had a funny feeling. By no means did I think I would get a goal,
but I had a good feeling. I was probably as calm as I've been in
any NHL game.''

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 Burns in Game 5 with center Joe Nieuwendyk out
with an injury. He played well enough to start getting regular
shifts, but neither Rupp nor Burns could have expected this.

"I was training hard, but I never thought I would get thrown
into the Stanley Cup finals,'' said Rupp, who has only five goals
in 26 career NHL regular season games.

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 with the
Devils and deny his brother, Anaheim forward Rob Niedermayer, his
first. Their mother, Carol, had hoped the Ducks would win so both
sons could own the Cup.

"It was tough,'' Scott Niedermayer said. "I told him I wished
he could be with us. He played as well as anybody on the ice.''

Slightly 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 against the Ducks, who were coming off a record 10-day
layoff following their conference finals sweep of Minnesota.

Stevens, who as the captain was the first to skate with the Cup,
handed it to Niedermayer, no doubt aware how difficult it was for
the brothers to compete against each other for the same cherished
prize.

One goal might have been enough for Brodeur on this night, two
probably seemed like 20 goals to Brodeur, who has now won an
Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup in consecutive years.
Brodeur's big-game experience meant all the difference as he became
one of five Devils to win three Cups with the team.

"It's not over for us,'' Brodeur said. "We're going to try to
build on this. ... But right now, it's not time to call us a
dynasty.''

Game notes
D Ken Daneyko, who had played in every playoff game in team
history until last month, was scratched for the finals until Game
7. Burns made sure he was on the ice at the end of the game. ...
The Devils won their three Cups with different coaches: Jacques
Lemaire (1995), Larry Robinson (2000) and Burns, but only one
general manager, Lou Lamoriello. ... The Devils are the first team
to win the Cup with a losing road record (4-7) since the 1974
Flyers. ... Home teams are 10-2 and have won the last four finals
Game 7s. It was the Devils' second Game 7 in three years; they lost
at Colorado 3-1 in 2001. ... Of the 11 teams to lose in their first
appearance in the finals, Anaheim was the first to take it to seven
games. ... The last team to win a finals Game 7 on the road was
Montreal in Chicago in 1971, also the last time a team lost the
first two games on the road and won the Stanley Cup. ... Among the
first to skate with the Cup was the injured Nieuwendyk, who sat out
the series with a torn abdominal muscle.