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Devils gain OT win in series


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Posted 19 April 2007 - 06:28 AM

http://www.northjers...2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2

Devils' gain OT win in series

Thursday, April 19, 2007

By TOM GULITTI
STAFF WRITER



TAMPA, Fla. -- The Devils would not be denied Wednesday night.

They played with determination. They played with a snarl.

Even after letting a two-goal second-period lead slip away, the Devils would not back down.


Their persistence paid off when Scott Gomez scored 12:54 into overtime to give them a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Devils evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece, with Game 5 Friday night at Continental Arena.

"We had to win," Gomez said. "We didn't want to go back down 3-1. These guys are too good. We got that bounce and we'll enjoy it for an hour."

A loss Wednesday would have been devastating for the Devils after the valiant, gritty effort they put forth. They have come back from a 3-1 series deficit only once in their history in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals against Philadelphia. That explained the urgency and extra fight in their game.

"It's huge," said Devils left wing Zach Parise, who scored two more goals to up his postseason total to six. "It's the difference between going down 3-1 and going home 2-2 with home ice. That's the way we pictured it and we played a great game tonight."

Key to the game
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The Devils never let up after blowing a 3-1 lead and were rewarded when Scott Gomez scored in OT.

* * *
Three stars of Game 4
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1. Scott Gomez

Devils

Scored the game-winner 12:54 into overtime.

2. Zach Parise

Devils

Scored two more goals and has six for the playoffs.

3. Martin St. Louis

Lightning

Scored a goal and set up another to lead comeback.

Gomez started the play that led to the winning goal by blocking a shot from Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich at the right point in the Devils' zone. Gomez gobbled up the loose puck and streaked into the Tampa Bay zone on the left wing, with linemate Brian Gionta driving for the net on a 2-on-1.

Lightning defenseman Nolan Pratt had the passing lane blocked, so Gomez snapped off a wrist shot from the circle that beat goaltender Johan Holmqvist over the catching glove and under the crossbar for the first playoff OT winner of Gomez's career.

"I was thinking pass," Gomez said. "I don't know if the puck wobbled or what. I saw Brian, but something happened. It just wobbled at the end. I wanted to get it on net. I didn't even know if it went in."

It was a roller coaster night for the Devils. Parise scored twice as they built a 3-1 lead midway through the second.

For most of the first two periods, the Devils did a decent job of containing Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, despite again playing without defenseman Colin White (stiff back). So the Devils surprisingly turned to Richard Matvichuk and Brad Lukowich to play head-to-head against Tampa Bay's dynamic duo.

But St. Louis and Lecavalier finally broke free late in the second, with St. Louis scoring on a 4-on-4 deflection and Lecavalier banking a shot in off Lukowich's skate 3:41 later to send it to the third period tied.

The Devils did not panic, though.

"I think that's where the experience in the room and the character just takes a hold," Devils general manager and coach Lou Lamoriello said. "In all of those type of situations, there is enough experience among these players that they've been through all types of situations."

After starting slowly in the third, the Devils had some great opportunities to retake the lead late in regulation and were thwarted repeatedly by Holmqvist, who responded with his best goaltending of the series, denying Gomez and Parise.

The Devils had to survive a Lightning power play early in the overtime and then failed to score on their own man-advantage before Gomez evened the series. The Devils had lost five consecutive playoff overtime games dating back to Game 5 of their 2003 conference semifinal against the Lightning, which Grant Marshall ended with a his series-clinching goal in the third extra period.

"I think we deserved it," said Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who finished with 30 saves. "We played hard all game. Defensively, we were sharp. I thought that we had some unbelievable chances, especially in the third. Holmqvist was the big difference to why the game went to overtime. But we stuck with it, got a big penalty kill and then we got that big goal from Gomez."

BRIEF: Parise has one more goal than Lecavalier in this series. Parise led the Devils with 31 goals during the regular season, but he can't explain his hot streak. "If I knew, I would have been doing it all regular season, too," he said. "As a line we've had a lot of chances. We'd love for that to continue.''

E-mail: gulitti@northjersey.com
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