- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000


DALLAS The New Jersey Devils struck quickly in the third period, scoring three times in less than three minutes and deflated whatever wind was left in the Dallas Stars' sails.

The Devils' 3-1, come-from-behind victory all but robbed the defending Stanley Cup champions of any chance to repeat. New Jersey took both games played in Texas and assumed a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup finals. Game 5 is Thursday night, and the Devils can take their second championship in five years with a victory.

Sergei Brylin, John Madden and Brian Rafalski scored early in the third period, erasing a 1-0 Dallas lead. The way goalie Martin Brodeur was playing, the end result was all but sealed.

The sad part? The Stars were playing their best game of the finals, finally backing up goalie Ed Belfour's excellent play with some defensive support. But the Devils stormed the Dallas zone repeatedly once the final period started, the Stars started to back up and Belfour once again was thrown to the wolves.

Brylin scored at 2:28 on a rebound that should have been cleared. Madden, who led the NHL with six shorthanded goals this season, scored at 4:51 while killing a penalty. And Rafalski sliced a shot between Belfour's legs at 6:08. Three shots, three goals, all in less than three minutes.

The mounting frustration Dallas has exhibited since a 7-3 loss in Game 1 of this series came to a head 13 minutes into the third when Stars defenseman and captain Derian Hatcher cross-checked center Jason Arnott, New Jersey's leading scorer in the finals, across the face. Arnott crumpled to the ice. He was assisted from the ice and did not return.

That Dallas had a different game in mind was evident from the start. The Stars were by far the most aggressive they have been in the finals, finishing checks and attacking with force and commitment. That they could get nothing past Brodeur and the New Jersey defense was not for lack of trying for a change.

The Stars finally broke through on their fourth power play, but they got a break, the type that decides the way many tight battles are settled in postseason. Defenseman Vladimir Malakhov was in the penalty box for cross-checking Brendan Morrow at 16:38 of the second.

Brett Hull slid the puck across to Darryl Sydor on the left point, and he shot a puck destined for the right of the net. But the puck struck defenseman Scott Niedermayer on the left skate and glanced into the crease behind Brodeur. There stood Joe Nieuwendyk, who jumped out of the way at first like the puck was a live hand grenade before sweeping it in as Brodeur tried to turn and find it.

The goal ended perhaps only temporarily the widespread questioning about Nieuwendyk's disappearance. Last season's Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff MVP had been shut out of the scoring column in the first three games of the finals; in fact, he had only three shots on goal. The goal was his first in six games and was only the fifth successful power-play opportunity against New Jersey in 60 tries.

Earlier in the second Brodeur had been outstanding in forcing the action during a shorthanded, 2-on-1 break by Dallas. Jamie Langenbrunner carried the puck in, but Brodeur forced him to pass before he wanted to and Brian Rafalski was able to sweep it away.

Note Langenbrunner, who had 18 goals and 39 points for Dallas during the regular season and was second on the team with six game-winning goals, was back in the lineup last night after missing five games with a knee injury.

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