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Devils, Senators Get a Final Shot

May 23, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- When the New Jersey Devils put a virtual stranglehold on the NHL Eastern Conference finals by winning three of the first four games, they tried to tell anybody who would listen that the series was not over.

The Ottawa Senators, owners of the league's best record during the regular season, were more than capable of mounting a comeback and winning the best-of-seven series, the Devils had said.

They knew it was not impossible.

They knew because they did it three years ago, becoming the first team since 1942 to overcome a 3-1 deficit in games to win a conference final.

The Senators, after a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 6 on Wednesday night at East Rutherford, N.J., are positioned to become the second when Game 7 is played tonight in the Corel Centre.

The winner will play the Mighty Ducks in the Stanley Cup finals starting Tuesday night in the home of the Eastern Conference champion.

Last Saturday, after a 5-2 victory in Game 4, that team figured to be the Devils, who would have three cracks at closing out the series.

Eight previous times the Devils had taken a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series and not once had they been forced to play a Game 7, six times advancing with a victory in Game 5 and twice with a victory in Game 6.

Also, they had been 8-0 at home in the playoffs this spring.

Both streaks ended when defenseman Chris Phillips rushed to the net late Wednesday and chipped a rebound past goaltender Martin Brodeur at 15 minutes 51 seconds of overtime.

"Even when we were down, 3-1, there was not one guy in our dressing room or organization that counted us out," Phillips said. "Obviously, we have a big task in front of us in Game 7, but everyone's really just buckled down and totally committed to winning and what we have to do to win. It's paid off the last couple games."

Before their 3-1 victory in Game 5 on Monday night at Ottawa, the Senators had been 0-6 in games in which they faced elimination.

*

Eastern Conference Finals

NO. 1 OTTAWA vs.

NO. 2 NEW JERSEY

Best-of-seven series tied, 3-3

Game 1...Ottawa, 3-2 (OT)

Game 2...New Jersey, 4-1

Game 3...New Jersey, 1-0

Game 4...New Jersey, 5-2

Game 5...Ottawa, 3-1

Game 6...Ottawa, 2-1 (OT)

Tonight...at Ottawa, 4 PDT

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