Devils 3, Lightning 2

Monday, April 23rd 2007, 7:30 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The New Jersey Devils never stopped believing in Martin Brodeur.

Three poor games in the first round of the playoffs made the 34-year-old goalie look vulnerable against the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the Atlantic Division champions kept insisting there was no reason to be alarmed.

They were right.

Brodeur stopped 32 shots and Brian Gionta scored two goals Sunday, giving New Jersey a 3-2 victory Sunday and a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Ottawa Senators. After allowing 12 goals in the first four games, the Devils shut down Tampa Bay's high-scoring tandem of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis to clinch the series in six games.

``I've said all along that he is a difference maker,'' New Jersey coach Lou Lamoriello said. ``But there are a lot of people who did a lot of good things at the right time. ... It's about getting a play when you need it. That's the key.''

Brodeur led the way.

After rejecting 31 shots to win Game 5 3-0 for his 22nd career playoff shutout, the New Jersey star got his 93rd postseason win overall to move ahead of Grant Fuhr into second place on the career playoff win list behind Patrick Roy's 151.

``They give up a lot of chances and we knew that from the start. But the puck was rolling on their side early in the series,'' Brodeur said. ``The puck was rolling on our side in the last part of the series, and that was the important one.''

In the other playoff game Sunday night, Detroit edged Calgary 2-1 in double overtime.

Lecavalier and St. Louis combined eight goals and six assists in the first four games, but were unable to do much damage in Games 5 and 6. Lecavalier had an assist Sunday, but Brad Richards scored both of Tampa Bay's goals on power plays.

The Devils won three straight after trailing the series 2-1.

``There was never a panic. We've been in that situation before,'' New Jersey's Scott Gomez said. ``It's just a team that gets along and cares about each other. ... It was a team effort.''

Gionta's power-play goal snapped a scoreless tie late in the opening period and Brian Rafalski's second goal of the playoffs made it 2-0. Gionta's shot from the left circle gave the Devils a 3-1 lead less than a minute after Tampa Bay broke through against Brodeur for the first time since the second period of Game 4.

Gionta, who had five goals in the series, was aided when Lightning defenseman Filip Kuba got tangled up with New Jersey's Patrick Elias in front of the net and wound up knocking over goalie Johan Holmqvist, who was sprawled on his back when the shot whizzed past.

Richards, who teamed with Lecavalier and St. Louis to score 11 of Tampa Bay's 14 goals in the series, trimmed the Lightning's deficit to 3-2 with his second power-play goal with just over 9 minutes remaining in the second period.

Tampa Bay outshot the Devils 10-7 in the third, but Brodeur refused to buckle.

``They're moving on and we're not,'' St. Louis said. ``It's an empty feeling and it's disappointing, but we have to remember how this feels.''

When asked about the difference between Brodeur early and late in the series, Lamoriello reiterated that the Devils never question the goaltender's performance.

``No difference. No difference physically, mentally,'' the coach said. ``You'll never find Marty different. His appearance, his approach. Just a bounce here and a bounce there, but that's part of the game.''

Holmqvist made 23 saves, including stops on point-blank shots by Patrick Elias, Zach Parise and Jay Pandolfo to keep the outcome in doubt until the final horn.

Red Wings 2, Flames 1, 2OT

At Calgary, Alberta, Johan Franzen scored early in the second overtime period, leading Detroit to a series-clinching victory.

Detroit, the top-seeded team in the Western Conference, won the series 4-2 and will play either sixth-seeded Dallas or No. 5 San Jose in the second round. The Stars play Vancouver in Game 7 on Monday.

Franzen took a cross-ice pass off the boards from Nicklas Lidstrom, cruised into the high slot and beat Miikka Kiprusoff at 4:23 of the second extra period.

Robert Lang also scored for the Red Wings, who won at Calgary for the first time since April 3, 2006, after outshooting the Flames 55-21.

Jarome Iginla had Calgary's lone goal.