- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2001

DENVER When Pittsburgh surprised New Jersey two weeks ago in Game 2 of the conference finals, Devils coach Larry Robinson said he filled three pages of a yellow legal pad with a list of mistakes his team made.

The list he made was much shorter after Colorado clubbed the Devils 5-0 in the opener of the Stanley Cup finals Saturday night. Game 2 is tonight, and Game 3 is Thursday night in New Jersey.

"I made very few [notations] because we made the same mistake over and over again," Robinson said. "You wrote it down two, three times when you saw it in the first, and we did the same thing in the second and less in the third. It wasn't like we did a lot of things wrong. We gave them too much room to skate. They took away a lot of our room in the neutral zone and clogged it up.

"The biggest thing was that we stood and watched and they skated."

The Devils claim they believed the press clips that proclaimed them kings of the hockey world before the first puck was dropped. Then they didn't quite know what to do once the game started, and the Avalanche showed them no respect whatsoever.

"We believe the second game is going to be much tougher than the first," Colorado defenseman Adam Foote said, "in fact, nothing like the first. They know what they're up against now, and they have a good team so they'll respond."

Robinson said yesterday that he was forced to shuffle two of his four lines because of the broken left hand Randy McKay suffered in Game 1. He insisted the realignment had nothing to do with performance, although he did form an all-Russian unit (Sergei Brylin, Sergei Nemchinov and Alexander Mogilny), probably in the hopes he can get Mogilny, all but unheard from in postseason, untracked. The star had 43 goals in the regular season but just four in the playoffs.

Bob Corkum was inserted into the lineup as McKay's replacement on a line with Scott Gomez and Bobby Holik. That unit probably will be used to try to keep Colorado's top line, centered by Joe Sakic, from dominating the game as it did Saturday night.

"[The Devils are] going to play better in all areas," Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque said. "They weren't as sharp or as strong as they will be, and we'll be ready for that because that's what we expect. In our case, we want to maintain the level we had in the first game and work on the things we could have done better."

Done better? The Avalanche reduced New Jersey, the club that destroyed the Penguins, to babbling barroom brawlers.

"The power play could have been sharper," Bourque replied. "You can't turn the puck over to them in the neutral zone, and we did a little bit. You could really see how they counter so well, and that's their strength, really coming back at you, making you create turnovers."

New Jersey had a physical series against Toronto, but that ended more than three weeks ago. The Pittsburgh series was a powder-puff derby, so running into a hard-hitting team like Colorado might have come as a bit of a shock.

"We got to get some focus back and get ready to play our type of hockey," defenseman Scott Stevens said. "We need to. No question, we don't want to fall back two games."

Tonight's game might be more physical than Game 1 but probably in a controlled manner rather than a Pier 6 brawl. Stevens, one of the hardest hitters in the history of the game but minus-3 defensively in the opener, isn't sure that is the case.

"When the hits are there, you take them; otherwise, you play the puck," he said. "At times that is more important than the body. You are playing against finesse players. You have to play a smart game. You can't get running around. Running around is only going to create goals and chances against. When the hits are there, take the hits. When the hits are not there, play smart hockey."

Of course, that's also Colorado's announced game plan.


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