Originally created 06/02/01

Devils looking for answers, Avalanche looking good in Stanley Cup



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There's a different look to the Stanley Cup finals, one Colorado coach Bob Hartley sees whenever he glances into goaltender Patrick Roy's expressive eyes.

"These eyes have been spitting fire," Hartley said Friday.

There's a much different look, however, to the defending champion New Jersey Devils, who now face what even they acknowledge is a must-win Game 4 against the Avalanche on Saturday night. They wore expressions of self-doubt, confusion and apprehension following a 3-1 loss in Game 3 Thursday that mostly left them looking for answers.

"When things go wrong, a lot of guys are panicking," goaltender Martin Brodeur said.

That doesn't sound like a team convinced it can win three of four against the NHL's regular season champions and retain the cup that may be slipping away with every period, every shift, every failed power play, every shot they can't get past Roy.

For the first time in the playoffs, the Devils seem to understand they may be playing a team that, largely because of Roy's determination and 40-year-old Ray Bourque's desperation, might be more driven than they are.

"I think his eyes will tell you a lot of secrets," Hartley said of Roy. "He is on a mission. He is cocky. He is confident. He is standing very tall in front of the net ... he is the guy that is providing all the necessary fuel to everyone."

The passion that drives Roy, maybe even the rage, was visible when he unwisely wandered out far from the net to play the puck late in the second period Thursday and nearly gave up a short-handed goal to Patrik Elias, whose shot hit the post.

Seething over a misplay that could have potentially cost him a fourth Stanley Cup, Roy upended the net with both hands as the period expired. His teammates didn't even try to talk to him between periods.

"When he's got that glow, you just leave him alone," Joe Sakic said.

Perhaps Roy's intensity motivated the Avalanche, perhaps it didn't, but Bourque scored what proved the game-winning goal only 31 seconds into the third period. Of course, it wasn't like Bourque needed any more impetus to win the cup, having played a record 1,882 games without touching the most famous trophy in team sports.

Bourque, who became the first 40-year-old to score a goal in the finals, said his family, his friends, his fans are so motivated to see him finally win the cup, he must be careful not to play with too much emotion.

Even his former city seems determined to help him lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in his 22-season career. The Game 3 TV ratings in Boston were more than twice as high as the national average, a reflection of the immense interest in Bourque's quest for the cup in the city where he played more than 20 years.

"Every game and every series, they're right there emotionally with you, sometimes a lot more emotionally than you are, and I've got to calm them down," said Bourque, who has a 17-year-old daughter and sons who are 15 and 10. "They know what it's all about ... I'm chasing the ultimate prize, and their dad is close."

Much too close for the Devils, who were the NHL's highest-scoring team during the regular season but have gotten the puck past Roy only three times in three games and are 1-for-15 on the power play.

Keep this up, and the Devils realize the Avalanche may take the cup from them as early as Game 5 Monday night in Denver, just as the Devils took it from the Dallas Stars a year ago.

"It is hard when you can't anything going," Brodeur said. "I think it is a lot like the teams that played against us felt. We're feeling it a little bit the same way."

A round ago, it was the Pittsburgh Penguins who were similarly exasperated by the Devils' neutral zone trap, unable to find the open space needed to make plays and create goals. The Avalanche don't play the trap, even if some Devils insist they do with the lead, but they still have allowed a goal or fewer in eight of their last 12 playoff games.

"But we're just halfway there and it's still a long way to go," Roy said. "We know it (Game 4) is going to be a big game, and they're probably going to play their best game of the series. We have to respond and play with the same intensity we did in Game 3."

The same look, too?

"We're desperate," Sakic said. "We don't want to go back to Denver 2-2. If you can get it to 3-1 going home, that would be a huge lift for us."