Devils Push Penguins to the Edge
By Tom Canavan
Petr Sykora scored on rebound early in the third period and the New Jersey Devils overcame a 13-second lapse to beat the Jagr-less Penguins 4-3 on Friday night to move within a game of winning their first-round Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series.
The Devils, who also got two goals from Randy McKay, can wrap up the best-of-7 series by winning either Game 6 at Pittsburgh on Sunday or, if necessary, Game 7 at home on Tuesday.
Jagr missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury and the Penguins only managed 17 shots without him. The NHL's leading scorer also didn't sound optimistic that he would be able to play Sunday.
Without him, Pittsburgh got goals by Alexei Kovalev and Kevin Hatcher in a 13-second span late in the second period, and a power-play tally by Kip Miller with 47 seconds to play.
The Hatcher-Kovalev outburst tied the game at 2-2 after two periods, but the Devils came back to win in the third period.
Sykora broke the tie at 1:42 of the third period. He set up a shot by Patrik Elias by splitting the Penguins defense and then he put Elias' rebound past a defenseless Tom Barrasso.
McKay got the eventual game-winner with 5:58 to play by re-directing a pass by Bobby Holik into an open net for his third goal in the last two games.
The Devils dominated the opening 36 minutes and built a 2-0 lead on goals by Scott Stevens and McKay while limiting the Penguins to just six shots.
However, everything fell apart in a 13-second span dominated by Kovalev, who also assisted on Miller's goal.
Kovalev first set up Hatcher for a goal right in front and then tied the game putting in his own rebound.
On the first goal, Robert Lang was pushed off the puck to the left of the net. Kovalev collected it, circled to the left boards and then sent a hard pass on goal that Hatcher re-directed past Brodeur at 16:08.
The puck came right back into the Devils' zone after the ensuing faceoff and Kovalev scored right in front after Devils defenseman Lyle Odelein deflected the puck to him. Martin Brodeur, who had 14 saves, stopped his first shot, but the second fluttered into the net.
Stevens scored for the Devils at 16:04 of the second period with a great move in the closing seconds of a power play. Stevens skated past a poke check by Kovalev, split the defense and beat Barrasso with a shot from between the circles.
McKay got his first, tapping the rebound of Holik's shot into an open net at 11:47 of the second period. Barrasso stopped Holik's shot from the left circle, but he lost sight of it after it fell at his feet.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press