- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2003

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Martin Brodeur showed he’s not perfect, but the Anaheim Mighty Ducks still are in playoff overtime — and that’s why they’re still alive in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Ruslan Salei scored off Adam Oates’ faceoff win at 6:59 into overtime and the Mighty Ducks, taking advantage of one of the biggest misplays of Brodeur’s career, beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in Game3 last night.

Oates fed the puck off the faceoff to Salei at the top of the slot, and Brodeur barely reacted to his one-timer as the Mighty Ducks improved to 6-0 in playoff overtimes. The Devils are 2-2.

It was essentially a must-win game for the Ducks, who played with the desperation expected of a team that trailed 2-0 in the series and almost certainly would have had no chance to raise the cup had it lost.

Ducks coach Mike Babcock joked that Salei is one of his hardest shooters, if not the most accurate.

“He can really shoot the puck. We always tell him shoot the puck on net once in a while,” Babcock said. “He bangs the puck off the glass with the best of them.”

Salei said the faceoff win was so clean, adding, “You’ve got to shoot. So far, it’s the biggest goal I’ve ever scored. We had to win this game. We had to get some momentum going. Now maybe it will go seven games, or six.”

Salei’s goal was his second of the playoffs.

Overtime playoff wins have largely been responsible for Anaheim’s remarkable playoff run, which began with three consecutive series-opening overtime victories.

Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been unbeatable in overtime, with an NHL-record overtime scoreless streak of 166 minutes, 4 seconds. He broke Patrick Roy’s record of 162:56 early in the overtime.

Giguere turned aside 29 of 31 shots in by far his best game of the finals.

The Devils trailed 2-1 in the second after Brodeur lost his stick and couldn’t defend Sandis Ozolinsh’s seemingly harmless shot as it trickled in from the blue line.

“It happens to the best of the goaltenders,” Devils coach Pat Burns said. “You don’t think Patrick Roy ever made a play like that? It’s not the end of the world. You’re going to fault the goaltender for that? I’m not.”

Babcock said the misplay gave the Ducks a huge lift.

“I thought that was the break we needed,” he said.

But the Devils tied it 2-2 when Scott Gomez deflected Grant Marshall’s wrister from above the right circle past Giguere at 9:11 of the third. Gomez has two goals in the finals after scoring only once in 16 games.

That might have won it had Brodeur not made a grievous mistake on a play that couldn’t have been more routine.

Only 45 seconds after the Devils’ Patrik Elias tied it 1-1, Giguere fed the puck up ice to Ozolinsh who, draped by two Devils, pushed it toward the net.

Brodeur, positioned at the left of the crease, began to scramble over to play the puck, only to drop his stick. With Brodeur unable to defend, the puck trickled into the side of the net as the goalie dropped to his knees, raising his hand to his head in disbelief.

It was a perfectly awful play by the goalie who was near perfect for the first seven periods of the series.

“Obviously, they got breaks and that’s what it’s all about. They got them and we didn’t get them,” Burns said. “We had a great chance tonight [to go up 3-0]. But it came down to errors and mistakes, like every hockey game does.”

The maddening misplay at 14:47 of the second came slightly more than 11 minutes after Ozolinsh set up Anaheim’s first goal of the series, by the infrequently used Marc Chouinard. That goal at 3:39 of the second ended Brodeur’s scoreless streak of 143 minutes, 39 seconds, the second-longest to start the finals.

Ozolinsh shot the puck toward the net from along the boards, and it deflected off Chouinard’s stick and past Brodeur to the glove side. The Devils scored the first goal in each of the first two games on their home ice, and the Ducks never challenged after that in either game.

Chouinard was scratched for the Ducks’ last five games before the finals and had only three goals all season.

The first period was scoreless for the third straight game, but the tempo was much different from the first two games. The Mighty Ducks, challenged Friday by Giguere to be more emotional and physical, were both — sometimes to their disadvantage.

Steve Thomas, playing in his first finals at age 39, tried to set the tone from the start, only to draw a cross-checking penalty 15 seconds in. Mike Leclerc drew another for slashing about 3 minutes later.

However, New Jersey’s power play, the second-worst in the league during the regular season, didn’t convert either time. The Devils’ power play is only 11-for-72 in the playoffs.

Anaheim star Paul Kariya, held without a shot in Game3 for the first time in 30 playoff games, had his best scoring chance of the series with about four minutes left in the first period, but Brodeur stopped his rebound attempt from along the goal line.

Notes — This is the first time both goalies have had assists in the same Stanley Cup Finals. Brodeur had an assist on Jeff Friesen’s empty-net goal in Game 1. … Frank McCool of Toronto had the record scoreless streak of 188:35 during a string of three consecutive shutouts to start the 1945 finals against Detroit. … Anaheim is 7-1 at home in the playoffs; New Jersey is only 4-5 on the road, but had been 7-2 in previous finals road games. … The Ducks are 9-0 when they score first. … Anaheim avoided its first three-game losing streak since Dec.26-Jan. 3.

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