EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Mighty Ducks can take this lesson from their first Stanley Cup finals: There's nothing like experience in big games.
Jeff Friesen, the very reason New Jersey is playing in its third finals in four years, beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the all-important first goal early in the second period and the Devils beat the offense-less Ducks 3-0 in Game 1 Tuesday night.
Playing on a makeshift line that was missing injured center Joe Nieuwendyk, Friesen scored his fourth game-winning goal in seven games to halt the momentum Anaheim brought into the finals off stunning upsets of powers Detroit and Dallas and a four-game sweep of Minnesota.
Unable to knock the rust off from a 10-day layoff that was the longest ever for a Stanley Cup finalist, Anaheim looked like ducks out of water against the patient, make-no-mistakes Devils, who now take a 1-0 lead into Game 2 Thursday night.
The Ducks gave up only 21 goals in their first 14 playoff games but also scored only 33, and they don't have a single scorer among the top 15 in the playoffs.
That scarcity of offense showed up against a Devils team that allowed the fewest goals in the league during the season; Anaheim had only four shots in each of the first two periods, and so few good scoring chances that goalie Martin Brodeur often went minutes at a time without seeing the puck in his end.
It was Brodeur's first finals shutout and his fifth in this year's playoffs.
New Jersey and Anaheim tied for the league lead with 24 one-goal victories each during the regular season, and this series figures to be among the lowest-scoring in NHL history.
So it was no surprise that Friesen got the game-winning goal - after all, his three such goals in New Jersey's tense elimination of NHL regular-season champion Ottawa in the Eastern Conference finals were by the most in any playoff round since the Islanders' Mike Bossy also had three in 1984. His goal late in Game 7 on Friday night sent New Jersey back to the finals.
Friesen added an empty net goal.
In a game in which the first goal figured to win it in a matchup of the league's hottest goalie (Giguere) against arguably its best goalie (Brodeur), the Devils pressured Giguere from the start of the second period.
Finally, Sergei Brylin - substituting for Niuewendyk on the Devils' second line - controlled the puck near the blue line and swept it to Friesen near the left faceoff circle dot, and he whipped it over Giguere's right shoulder just inside the near post at 1:45 of the second.
In not even 22 minutes, the Devils had as many goals as the Minnesota Wild scored against Giguere in the entire Western Conference final. It was only one goal, but the Mighty Ducks, named after a Disney movie, had to sense the script in this game might be different.
The Ducks pulled off the near-impossible in their first three series, winning Games 1 and 2 on the road, including multiple-overtime wins in each Game 1. But, this night, they asked Giguere to do the truly impossible: win a game for them in which they didn't score.
Giguere, trained by the same goaltending coach who tutored the now-retired Patrick Roy, was outstanding most of the game, and certainly wasn't the reason the Ducks lost their first finals game ever.
And if a 1-0 lead seemed big, the 2-0 advantage supplied by Grant Marshall's fifth playoff goal in 12 games must have seemed insurmountable to the Ducks.
Giguere stopped Patrik Elias' shot from below the right circle, but the rebound deflected directly back onto Elias' stick, and he immediately fed it across the slot to a wide-open Marshall for an uncontested goal at 5:34 of the second.
Marshall went 65 playoff games without a goal, but now has five in his last 12 games.
Notes: In a virtually penalty free game, Anaheim was 0-for-2 on the power play and New Jersey was 0-for-1. Anaheim is only 6-of-54 in the playoffs. ... New Jersey played its first finals game ever without defenseman Ken Daneyko, who was scratched. ... New Jersey is 9-1 at home in the playoffs, Anaheim is 6-2 on the road.
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