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Saturday, May 13, 2006
Updated: May 14, 1:35 PM ET
Devils take baby steps back into series with win

By E.J. Hradek
ESPN The Magazine

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Baby steps. If you're going to overcome an 0-3 series deficit, you need to take a few baby steps.

On Saturday afternoon, the Devils took a couple, blasting the Hurricanes 5-1 to force a Game 5 in Raleigh on Sunday night.

The Devils accomplished two other things with their Game 4 victory. First, they stopped the Hurricanes' seven-game playoff winning streak. And second, they chased rookie goalie Cam Ward, who allowed four goals in the first 20:44 before being replaced by Martin Gerber.

"I felt we were more aggressive today," Devils GM/head coach Lou Lamoriello said. "More aggressive, but we kept our poise and discipline all over the ice."

The Devils' renewed aggressiveness led to a slew of power-play chances. On the day, the Devils received 11 power-play opportunities. They converted two of those chances in the first period en route to an early 3-0 lead.

"We had five people going in the same direction all of the time today," Lamoriello said, talking about the difference in his team's performance in Game 4.

For his part, Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette thought the Devils received some help from two other people, namely referees Brad Watson and Dave Jackson.

"It was 11-3 in power plays," Laviolette said. "I didn't think it was an 11-3 game, but that's just my opinion."

Actually, the final numbers showed an 11-4 power-play difference between the two clubs. But Laviolette wasn't airing his thoughts to be absolutely accurate. He was making an early statement to the officials for Game 5. That statement? Keep the calls a little closer.

Interestingly, Game 4 might have turned on a Hurricanes power-play chance.

Midway through the first period, with Devils center Erik Rasmussen serving a tripping penalty, the Canes seemed to get another good break. Goalie Martin Brodeur, behind the net playing a loose puck, lost his stick. The Hurricanes gained control in the zone and set up for a shot on the stickless Brodeur.

Hurricanes winger Ray Whitney held the puck along the left wing boards. He tried to squeeze a pass into the slot to Doug Weight. Devils center John Madden intercepted the pass and broke up the ice with penalty-killing partner Jay Pandolfo on a two-on-one against Canes defender Frantisek Kaberle.

Ward came out to play Madden, who was moving down the left wing side. The crafty Devils center fed the puck across to Pandolfo, who shoveled a shot toward the net. It wasn't pretty, but it got to the net before the over-committed Ward could slide across his crease.

Pandolfo's shorthanded goal gave the Devils a 2-0 lead and new life in the series.

"We just tried to play a solid game today," Madden said. "We've got to play it one shift and one period at a time right now. I thought we worked harder and worked smarter today."

Veteran Hurricanes defenseman Glen Wesley was quick to give the Devils credit for their work in Game 4.

"They crashed the net and created traffic," Wesley said. "We didn't do that today. To be honest, for whatever reason, I didn't think we had our skating legs today. We took too many penalties and never got any consistent flow to our game."

Now, the Hurricanes and Devils make the quick turnaround for Sunday's Game 5. Both Laviolette and Lamoriello think the back-to-back scenario is good for their respective clubs.

The Canes will be trying to forget about one bad game and finish their second-round business.

The Devils, meanwhile, will be looking to take a few more baby steps. If they succeed on Sunday, they'll be looking at some much bigger steps later in the week.

EJ Hradek covers hockey for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at Also, click here to send EJ a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.