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Devils shut Pens down for good

Pittsburgh's offense has no answer as New Jersey wins 4-2 to wrap up the East.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a rocky journey through Hurricanes, Maple Leafs and superstar Penguins, the defending champion New Jersey Devils are right where they expected to be -- in the Stanley Cup final.

Jason Arnott scored twice and the Devils earned the right to compete for their third title since 1995 by defeating Mario Lemieux and Pittsburgh 4-2 Tuesday to win the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final in five games.

Bobby Holik and John Madden also scored for the Devils, who play Colorado in Game 1 of the final Saturday in Denver.

"We've been playing much more consistent. Just have to keep playing the same way," Devils captain Scott Stevens said. "They are a great club, Colorado, with great goaltending."

Though they have had moments of inconsistency throughout the playoffs, the Devils played some of their best hockey in bringing the curtain down on a storybook Penguins season, in which Lemieux returned after a 31/2-year retirement.

But Super Mario and the NHL's leading scorer, Jaromir Jagr, had very little to show in this series, scoring no goals. Jagr, who thinks he will be traded in the off-season because of his $10-million salary, was held scoreless. Lemieux has three assists but showed frustration in the final minute by taking a foolish penalty.

"It was a great ride, especially after coming back after 31/2 years," Lemieux said. "Obviously, we wanted to get to the finals. We got beat by a great team."

Pittsburgh's Aleksey Morozov and Martin Straka each scored their second goal of the series.

The talented Penguins had seven goals total against Martin Brodeur and not many more scoring chances against the Devils' tenacious neutral zone trap.

Pittsburgh played one of its better periods in the second but still fell behind 3-2 as Arnott broke a 1-1 tie on a power play and Holik added another on an odd-man rush.

Arnott's second of the game and seventh of the playoffs came when he one-timed a pass from Petr Sykora past a screened Johan Hedberg at 7:41. Sykora had kept the play alive by stealing the puck from defenseman Andrew Ference, who failed to clear the puck out of his own zone.

Holik stretched the lead to two goals a little less than five minutes later, taking a drop pass from Jay Pandolfo and ripping a shot past Hedberg.

Madden ended Pittsburgh's chances at 3:32 of the third period, breaking in alone on the left wing and scoring one-on-one with Hedberg, who made 19 saves.

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