2006-05-12 / Sports

With Backs Against Wall, Devils Look For Answers

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - It's rather ironic the Devils are getting a taste of their own medicine. After sweeping the Rangers out of the playoffs, New Jersey is on the verge of being swept. Carolina sent the home crowd unhappy with as a third period Rod Brind'Amour goal sealed a 3-2 win at the Meadowlands last Wednesday night.

And it's something the team seems to be having some trouble answering.

"What can you do?" wondered Patrik Elias, who scored the tying goal in Game 3 halfway through the second period only to see the lead vanish a little over 10 minutes later. "We have to bring a better game than we did today." New Jersey played extremely well for the last two periods in Game 3. But, a sluggish start allowed the Carolina Hurricanes a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission, which may or may not have been a hangover from Monday's overtime loss.

"We were ready to play, but sometimes it takes a little to get into it," Elias said, but Brian Gionta thought that it wasn't their "best period and it was a little too late" when the Devils did get intense.

No matter how well the Devils played, the same problem from the first two games plagued them - the team can't stop the Carolina power play.

After scoring two goals in Game 3 with the man advantage, the Hurricanes have scored eight of their 12 in the series on the power play. The Devils, like the Rangers before them, need to cut the time in the sin bin down or the series will be over on Saturday.

"We need one to get back in it and it's do or die," Gionta thought. "We need to get better on the power play and we need to get better chances."

That's easier said than done. Carolina is taking advantage of New Jersey mistakes that's taking the Devils out of their game. In turn, the Hurricanes are playing a brand of hockey the Devils sported through their 15 game winning streak that started at the end of the regular season.

It's something GM/coach Lou Lamoriello seems to be noticing.

"We play a north-south game and have to chip the puck to do things," Lamoriello said. "When we stay in that framework we have success."

Because the Devils are making mistakes, they don't have a chance to knock the puck down the ice. They are getting trapped by the Hurricanes and have trouble setting up their offense. Carolina then takes advantage.

Which brings the team to this situation: win on Saturday or go home. No one wearing the 'NJ' shield is happy about that. "If you feel good, there's something wrong with you," Lamoriello said. "You still have to win four games and we'll find a way to get ourselves ready to play Saturday."

Gionta though thinks the Devils have a shot. "We dug ourselves a hole many times this year, so it's just us doing it," he said. "They are playing good hockey and we haven't played our best yet. On Saturday, it's do or die."

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