Keeping their cool enables Devils to keep winning

June 07, 1995|By Knight-Ridder News Service

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The temptation was there for New Jersey's Randy McKay. He absorbed a shot to the face from Philadelphia Flyers' Chris Therien, and his right fist was poised to introduce itself to Therien's face.

But McKay resisted the urge Monday night because the Devils were on a power play. It was a wise move considering that just a minute later on the power play, McKay deflected a pass from Stephane Richer past Ron Hextall for the Devils' first goal of their 5-2 Game 2 victory.

While the Devils have avoided confrontation, the Flyers have looked for it. Eric Lindros is probably still chasing New Jersey's Scott Stevens up the Jersey Turnpike.

The Devils' cool heads are the main reason they're leading the Eastern Conference finals, 2-0, as the series heads to the Meadowlands for today's Game 3. Patience is a necessity in a system predicated on pressuring opponents into making poor, quick decisions with the puck. Comparable poise can bring success against the Devils' style, but the Flyers can't match New Jersey's cool.

"Our problem is that we're not playing with the same poise and patience that they are," Lindros said. "They want you to lose your temper and as a result your concentration on the game. You have to be very disciplined against them because they're very good at forcing you to play their style."

A fine example of the Devils' patience was the goal in the closing seconds of the first period that tied the score 2-2. Claude Lemieux, playing the point on the Devils' power play, slowly skated across the rink waiting for the right moment to launch a shot at Hextall. Unfazed by a quickly dwindling game clock, Lemieux eventually found the seam he sought and fired the puck that John MacLean deflected into the net.

"It comes with experience," said Lemieux, who won a Stanley Cup with Montreal. "The Flyers are a great team, but they're also a young team that's making their first trip to the playoffs. Poise is something that comes in time. You can't just create it. It's learned."

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