Defending champs avoid falling into 0-3 hole

Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2004

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - A lot of determination and a little luck got the defending champion New Jersey Devils back into their first-round playoff series with the Philadelphia Flyers.

After dropping the opening two games in Philadelphia, the Devils took a game they almost had to win by beating the Flyers 4-2 on Monday night behind two goals by Patrik Elias and three assists by Scott Gomez, a former East Anchorage High School player who twice was Alaska's player of the year.

"We're back in it now," goaltender Martin Brodeur said after making 23 saves. "Those guys were flying high and hopefully we put a little doubt in their minds."

Rookie Paul Martin and Brian Gionta also scored as New Jersey cut the Flyers' lead in the best-of-7 series to 2-1. Game 4 also will be played at the Continental Airlines Arena on Wednesday night.

Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte scored for the Flyers, who twice blew one-goal leads.

The Devils, 0-for-7 on the power play in losing two 3-2 decisions in Philadelphia, scored three times on five extra-man chances to get back into the series.

"We didn't play anything different in the way we were going to forecheck or what we were going to do," Flyers center Keith Primeau said of their failures on the penalty kill. "Maybe they were just more desperate on their special teams than we were."

The Devils also had a little luck.

Elias' second goal went past Robert Esche off the hip of Flyers defenseman Kim Johnsson with 2:32 left in the second period, giving New Jersey a 3-2 lead. It marked the first time in the series the Devils were ahead.

"It hit the pants and deflected in," Johnsson said. "It was bad luck. We have to bounce back and refocus on the fourth game."

Elias said Johnsson was not the target of his shot from the top of the right circle.

"I got lucky with the shot," Elias said. "It just went through there."

Gionta, who had hit the goalpost with a shot from center ice minutes earlier, gave the Devils breathing room at the 7:00 mark of the third period, scoring a power-play goal right in front off a nice pass by Gomez from behind the net.

"We played hard and we're going to play hard the whole series," Roenick said. "We're up against the Stanley Cup champions. We know they're going to keep coming hard at us."

The Flyers, who converted two of their four power plays in the first two games, converted on two of their first three in twice taking the lead in Game 3.

Roenick put Philadelphia ahead 1-0 a little more than a minute after Martin was penalized for interference. After Brodeur stopped Johnsson's shot from the right circle, Roenick fluttered the rebound over the Devils goaltender.

The goal was originally credited to Amonte, who flicked his stick at the puck simultaneously with Roenick.

Elias tied the game early in the second period, putting a centering pass from Gomez into a virtually open net.

A giveaway by defenseman Scott Niedermayer behind his own net set up Amonte in close at 3:13. Martin scored on a scramble in front at 4:55 with New Jersey on a power play.

Stars 4, Avalanche 3, OT

DALLAS - Steve Ott turned a steal at center ice into a breakaway goal 2:11 into overtime, putting Dallas back in the series.

The Stars tied the game when Philippe Boucher sent a long, wide shot past Colorado goaltender David Aebischer with 4:27 left in regulation.

The winning play began when Ott blocked a neutral-zone pass from Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote and took off.

Foote couldn't catch up to Ott. Neither could Karlis Skrastins, who dived just as Ott sent the puck through a narrow gap between Aebischer and the post.

Blues 4, Sharks 1

ST. LOUIS - Late-season pickup Mike Sillinger scored his first career playoff hat trick and Dallas Drake had a goal and an assist for St. Louis.

San Jose leads the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 tonight in St. Louis.

Sillinger, acquired March 4 from Phoenix and playing for his 10th NHL team to tie a record, seemed to be a low-key pickup at the time. But he provided an immediate boost for a team that qualified for the playoffs on the 81st game, getting four goals and five assists in 16 games.

Maple Leafs 2, Senators 0

OTTAWA - Ed Belfour made 35 saves to get his second straight shutout, giving Toronto a 2-1 lead over Ottawa.

Joe Nieuwendyk scored his second goal of the playoffs early in the second period, and Mats Sundin added a goal on a two-on-one rush in the third for the Maple Leafs.

Belfour has held Ottawa scoreless for 138:21. He made 31 saves for his first Toronto playoff shutout in Saturday's 2-0 win to give the Maple Leafs a split of the first two home games.

Lightning 3, Islanders 0

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Nikolai Khabibulin made 28 saves to lead Tampa Bay to a 2-1 lead over New York.

Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis scored early, and Khabibulin stoned the Islanders the rest of the way. St. Louis added an empty-net goal with 10 seconds remaining.

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