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Devils Get Their Due, Sweep Stanley Cup Finals

By Len Hochberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 25, 1995

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., JUNE 24 -- Two years ago, upon accepting the job as coach of the New Jersey Devils, Jacques Lemaire saw players he said could be champions, if only they played as one. One year ago, he led them to the brink of playing for a title. Now, Lemaire has united the Devils into the finest team in the NHL.

The Devils captured the first Stanley Cup in franchise history tonight, completing a stunning four-game sweep of the individually superior Detroit Red Wings with a 5-2 victory before a euphoric sellout crowd of 19,040 at Brendan Byrne Arena.

And, as if to silence critics of their mundane, defensive style of play, the Devils punctuated the 78th NHL season beating the Red Wings in a finale with a faster pace than the previous three games.

Veteran Neal Broten broke a 2-2 tie with his second goal of the game 7:56 into the second period. Rookie Sergei Brylin then began the celebration, connecting for his first postseason goal at 7:46 of the third. Shawn Chambers kicked that celebration into high gear, as his second goal of the game made it 5-2 at 13:32.

The Devils thus are champions for the first time in the 21 years of a franchise that began in Kansas City, Mo., moved to Denver, then here in 1982.

When Lemaire was hired, "it was an immediate positive response," said Claude Lemieux, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. "Two years ago, we won the first eight games and you could tell the players respected {Lemaire and his assistants}, the players believed in them and they were going to bring something that we needed. They deserve all the credit."

Last year, New Jersey lost to the eventual champion New York Rangers in double overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"When you play good defense, you're going to win a lot of games," said Red Wings Coach Scotty Bowman. "And tonight, they won a championship."

"Unbelievable," said Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, 23. "It's a thing you dream of all your life. Second year in the league and I did it. And I think it's, uh, it's just great, you know, I think we played really a big, uh . . . . You know, our team is just incredible. We just, uh, I'm just babbling now. It's too good. It's too good."

Unlike the postgame celebrating, the crowd didn't seem all that excited at the start of tonight's game, and the Devils mirrored that mood. Still, they gained the lead 1 minute 8 seconds in, on a play reviewed by the video judge.

With Broten fighting off Bob Errey in the crease, the puck appeared to go off Broten's skate, then Errey's glove before passing goaltender Mike Vernon. If it had hit Broten's skate last, it might not have counted.

It took the Red Wings less than two minutes to tie the score.

Martin LaPointe, among those Bowman had singled out for playing with vigor in Thursday's Game 3 blowout, was the first to a loose puck behind the net. He fed it in front to Sergei Fedorov, whose shot was stopped by Brodeur. But as Brodeur went down, the rebound went right to Fedorov, and he lifted the puck into the net at 2:03.

Detroit then began to get the better of the play -- eight minutes into the game it had a 7-1 edge in shots on goal. The Red Wings had been limited to seven shots in the first period of each of the first three games.

A few minutes later, the Devils got the game's first power play, as Errey hooked Broten breaking into the zone. New Jersey not only did nothing with the advantage, it gave up a short-handed goal, only the second allowed by the Devils in the postseason. Again, the Red Wings' Fedorov was involved.

He broke in on defenseman Tommy Albelin and beat Brodeur to the far side, only to have his shot hit the post. The puck rebounded hard and, after Doug Brown touched it, it went to Paul Coffey streaking in. The highest scoring defenseman in NHL history scored his first goal of the series at 13:01.

Vernon, playing much better than before he was pulled from Game 3, made a strong save on Broten's power-play attempt at 17:20, as Broten took dead aim from the right circle. Twenty seconds later, however, after the penalty expired, Chambers strolled from the left point into the circle and unleashed a slap shot that crossed over Vernon's glove and went in. It was 2-2 after one period.

The action continued brisk in the middle period. The Devils owned a 16-15 edge in shots after 40 minutes, but more importantly a 3-2 lead in goals. Broten's second of the game was the lone score of the period.

Vernon continued superior play, thwarting Scott Niedermayer's point blast and two attempts from in close by Randy McKay in the first 6 1/2 minutes.

Then Broten and Errey came together for their third important sequence of the game -- and for the third time, Broten won. They were battling in front of Vernon when Errey went down. Broten took a feed from Niedermayer and shot, but Vernon made the stop while going down. With Errey still down, Broten lifted the rebound. It hit Vernon's glove, flicked off and then into the net, giving the Devils a 3-2 edge at 7:56.

The third period belonged to the Devils, as they outshot Detroit 10-1.

Captain Scott Stevens, asked when the Devils turned around their season, had an immediate answer: "When Neal Broten came here. Neal Broten is one heck of a hockey player, and I don't know if we could have done this without him. . . . He stepped up and did the job and I admire him so much. I think he deserves a great deal of credit."

Broten was acquired from Dallas on Feb. 27 for Corey Millen in an exchange of centers. Broten, who had spent his entire 15-year career with the Minnesota-Dallas franchise, had 28 points in 30 regular season games with the Devils -- after four in 17 games with the Stars. In 20 playoff games, he had 19 points, including seven goals, second on the club to Lemieux's league-best 13.

Broten was on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic team, and tonight became the second member -- joining Ken Morrow, 1980 New York Islanders -- to also capture a Stanley Cup.

But he is not the only Devil to have experienced titles elsewhere.

A winner of eight titles as a player in Montreal, Lemaire, 48, had the distinction in this series of outcoaching his mentor, Bowman, 61, who was on the bench for five of those titles in Montreal. Bowman, winningest coach in NHL history, was bidding to end the longest current Cup drought -- Detroit has not won it since 1955.

The Red Wings seemingly were on target to win, finishing the regular season with an NHL-best 33-11-4 record. Still, Lemaire's team won out.

Last season was Lemaire's first with the Devils, and he was NHL coach of the year. Before Lemaire, the Devils had four coaches in four seasons.

"It's very different," Lemieux said of how this compares with the title won in 1986 as a rookie. "In Montreal, we were part of a tradition . . . it was their 23rd Stanley Cup. . . . Here with the Devils, we're building a tradition. We're the first ones to win the Stanley Cup for the New Jersey Devils."

© 1995 The Washington Post Company

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