- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. The last time Colorado's record-setting goalie, Patrick Roy, was in the Stanley Cup finals in 1996, he allowed just four goals and the Avalanche swept the Florida Panthers.

But that fourth victory was hard-earned. Colorado won 1-0 on Uwe Krupp's goal 4:31 into triple overtime. Roy made 63 saves that night. His Florida counterpart, John Vanbiesbrouck, was almost as good, stopping 55 Colorado shots until Krupp's goal.

Five years later, Roy is still the Avalanche's focal point, while Vanbiesbrouck is a nearly forgotten man as the backup to New Jersey Devils standout Martin Brodeur. Vanbiesbrouck has played in just four games for New Jersey the last April 2, none in the playoffs since being acquired from the lowly New York Islanders on March 12.

"It's definitely a change, but it's one I have welcomed," said Vanbiesbrouck, who started all 22 playoff games for Florida in 1996 and was also a regular for the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and the Islanders the last 16 seasons. "I'm certainly willing to put up with a couple of traffic jams [between here and his Long Island home] for the chance to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "I really don't want to play because that means something drastic has happened to Marty. I want him to stay healthy because that's our best chance to win."

Although Vanbiesbrouck hasn't played in almost two months, he's still contributing to New Jersey's championship run.

"John understood his role when he got here," Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko said. "He has been real good in the dressing room. He has a very good hockey mind. He sees a lot of little things to help guys out between periods. He has done everything that has been asked."

If not for the presence of beloved 22-year-veteran defenseman Ray Bourque on the opposing bench, the hockey world might be rooting for Vanbiesbrouck to win a Cup. The 37-year-old Detroit native's 372 victories are tied for eighth all time and are the most by an American. Only Hall of Famer Tony Esposito (423) has won more games without winning a Cup.

"Beezer's a great guy," Avalanche veteran left wing Dave Reid said. "I've known him a long time because we've both been very active in the players association. He has also been a great goalie. He's put up some pretty good numbers over a long time."

Something has to give

New Jersey slipped to 6-5 at home this postseason and 8-9 in its past 16 playoff games at Continental Airlines Arena with last night's 3-1 loss to the Avalanche in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.

If the Devils don't reverse that trend in Game 4 tomorrow night, they might well have played their last home game of the year.

"If you're on the road and you're tied after two periods, you're happy with that, but sometimes at home you think, 'We shouldn't be tied,' and maybe you force it a little bit and do something you shouldn't do," Devils defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "Teams tend to get a little fancy a little more quickly at home instead of staying patient the way they would on the road."

Meanwhile, Colorado won its first game in New Jersey in seven tries since moving from Quebec in 1995. The Avalanche had the NHL's best record and best road record this season but were pounded 6-1 at New Jersey on Dec. 5 and 6-3 at home on March 13.

On the way

Despite last night's loss, history is still on New Jersey's side. Only four of the past 29 teams to win Game 2 of the finals lost the series. Those teams were the Flyers (1980 against the Islanders), the Islanders (1984 against the Edmonton Oilers), the Montreal Canadiens (1989 against the Calgary Flames) and the Dallas Stars (last year against the Devils).

The Devils now must try to equal the comebacks of the 1989 Flames and 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins by coming back from a 2-1 deficit to win the Cup.


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