- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils held serve last night and as a result won their third Stanley Cup.

The Cinderella story that started April10 when Anaheim beat Detroit for the first time this playoff season came to an end last night, and not the way it was scripted. The Mighty Ducks proved to be something less than mighty and no match for the Devils, who methodically dissected the visitors en route to a 3-0 victory in Game7. The home team won all seven games of the finals.

“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,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Anaheim goalie, was voted winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs, a selection that is sure to spark controversy. Among those he was chosen over for the trophy was Brodeur, who became just the third goalie in history to record a shutout in the seventh game of the Cup finals.

“It’s a not a question of us not wanting it, it was them playing very good,” Giguere said. “It’s tough to lose like that. You never know when your next chance will come. But you’ve got to give them credit, they have a really good team and tonight they deserved to win.”

Nonetheless, the trophy he won wasn’t the one he wanted.

“No question,” Giguere said. “I’d give that one up to get the other one. My teammates gave everything they had.”

Last night Brodeur turned aside all 24 shots he faced in a fairly easy game for him to record his seventh shutout of this postseason — an all-time record for one playoffs — and the 20th of his postseason career.

Giguere was the heartwarming story of the playoffs, guiding his team past Detroit, Dallas and Minnesota, running up a shutout string of more than 168 minutes after bouncing around the league. He is only the fifth player in playoff history to win the Conn Smythe representing the losing team and the first since Philadelphia’s Ron Hextall in 1987.

“The reason he’s such a surprise is our games must be on [TV] too late in the East,” said Anaheim coach Mike Babcock. “I’m sure he will treasure the Conn Smythe but he was interested in only one trophy” and that wasn’t it.

The Devils won the Cup in 1995 and 2000. They were losing finalists in 2001.

Rookie right wing Mike Rupp and former Duck Jeff Friesen scored in the second period to give Brodeur more than enough offensive support. Just to make sure, Friesen scored his 10th of the playoffs late in the third with Rupp assisting on the two he didn’t score.

New Jersey acted like a constrictor snake. The Devils applied pressure in the first period, tightened the grip considerably in the second and crushed their foes in the third. The longer the game went, the more pressure the winners exerted. Anaheim could not cope.

Rupp got the one that counted. Scott Niedermayer shot from the blue line 2:22 into the second period and Rupp redirected it as it passed through the top of the slot. Giguere did not react quickly enough in closing his legs to block the shot.

“Throughout the whole playoffs it’s been someone else all the time,” Rupp said. “… Guys were just stepping up to the plate. When you follow any sport, that’s what championship teams do.”

Friesen’s first came 10 minutes later when he reached around defenseman Kurt Sauer and swept the puck in off Giguere’s left leg. His second of the night came at 16:16 of the third when he drilled a shot through Giguere’s legs.

The Ducks had scored the game-winning goal in the third period or overtime in 11 of their 14 playoff victories this season but that didn’t come into play last night. New Jersey kept Anaheim off balance most of the night, giving Brodeur plenty of protection and more than adequate time to see what was headed in his direction.

Rupp, 23, is an interesting story himself. He was the ninth pick overall in the 1998 draft, selected by the New York Islanders. That didn’t work out and he reentered the draft, selected 76th overall by the Devils two years later. He blossomed after he was drafted the first time, increasing his offensive production more than fourfold.

Still, he had spent the majority of three seasons in the minors before being called up this season. Last night was only his fourth NHL playoff game and just his 30th NHL game overall. The Devils activated him because they needed somebody very large and mobile to bump the Ducks off their game and at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Rupp fit that bill.

The victory was the Devils’ 10th in a row over Anaheim at home; the Ducks’ first and only win in New Jersey was a 4-2 decision on Feb.11, 1996. The win also was New Jersey’s record 12th at home this playoff season, bettering by one the mark the team had shared with Edmonton. The Devils were beaten only once at home, 2-1 by Ottawa on May21.

“This makes up for that bad time against the Colorado Avalanche,” said Devils captain Scott Stevens, referring to New Jersey losing a 3-2 series lead to Colorado in the 2001 finals.

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