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New Jersey 3, Tampa Bay 2 (OT)

April 26, 2003 at 7:51 PM   |   Comments

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 26 (UPI) -- Jamie Langenbrunner scored his league-leading seventh playoff goal 2:09 into overtime Saturday, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning and a two games to none lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

New Jersey's first overtime of this year's playoffs was short and sweet.

Langenbrunner got a pass from John Madden and wristed a shot from the right faceoff circle. Nikolai Khabibulin made a chest save, but Langenbrunner beat several defenders to the rebound and tucked a backhander around the goaltender's right pad for his fourth postseason game-winner.

"I had a pretty good shot there from the slot, hit him right in the chest," Langenbrunner said. "It popped out a little bit. I kept going to the net and was able to find it on the backhand with a lot of net to shoot at."

"When a shot comes from that close, it's pretty hard to control the rebound," Khabibulin said. "It got away from me a little bit and he was able to pick it up and skate around."

Langenbrunner had just one assist last year as New Jersey was beaten in six games by the Carolina Hurricanes. But Devils captain Scott Stevens is not surprised by his production in this season's playoffs.

"He's determined," Stevens said. "In the playoffs, it takes a lot of grit and character. It's not always the skill that prevails in the playoffs, usually, it's the other type. And that's what Jamie is. He comes to play every night, he skates hard, he works hard and he deserves everything he gets."

The Devils forced overtime on Grant Marshall's first goal in 66 playoff games. With 9:34 left in the third period, Scott Gomez wristed a shot from the left circle that hit Marshall's left skate and deflected past Khabibulin.

The goal initially was credited to Patrik Elias, who has not scored in the postseason.

"When they called his name, I was happy because we need him scoring," Marshall said. "It's great to get it, first goal in 60 some-odd games."

Less than three minutes earlier, Martin Brodeur kept New Jersey in the game with an acrobatic glove save on Martin St. Louis, who beat him on a shorthanded breakaway late in the second period but was denied on a backhander.

Both teams played cautiously after Marshall's tying goal. St. Louis got off a quick wrist shot from low in the left circle that Brodeur stopped with 6:26 left and Khabibulin squeezed his pads to deny Turner Stevenson from the slot seconds later.

Game 3 will be Monday night in Tampa.

"We played a lot better game. Obviously, we would have liked to have won, but it was a lot better effort, a little bit of a confidence builder for us," Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk said. "We've taken this team to overtime, we know we can beat them."

The Lightning also dropped the first two games of their first-round series before winning four straight against the Washington Capitals.

After a largely uneventful first period, the action picked up in the final minute of a penalty-filled second.

New Jersey allowed just two shots while killing four straight Tampa Bay power plays, then got an advantage of its own when Vincent Lecavalier was penalized for hooking with 2:31 to go.

It became a five-on-three power play when Tim Taylor leveled Brian Gionta after a whistle and was sent to the box for roughing with 57 seconds to go in the period.

The Devils needed 23 seconds to cash in as defenseman Brian Rafalski got a feed from Gomez at the top of the right circle and one-timed a slap shot between the pads of a screened Khabibulin for his second playoff goal.

Rafalski, who missed Game 1 while battling the flu, gave the goal right back. Just 12 seconds later, St. Louis stripped him of the puck, broke down the slot and flicked a wrist shot under Brodeur's right arm for his sixth playoff goal and second shorthanded tally.

Until the late flurry, New Jersey was shorthanded for all but four minutes of a 12-minute stretch, but had the best scoring chances during that span.

Khabibulin squeezed his pads to stop Patrik Elias from the top of the slot with 12 1/2 minutes left and used his glove to snare Madden's wrister off a 2-on-1 with 8:40 to go.

Six minutes later, Jay Pandolfo wristed a shot off the left goalpost on another odd-man rush.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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