EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Jeff Friesen wouldn't trade this for anything: a Stanley Cup finals lead against his old team.
Friesen, the very reason New Jersey is playing in its third finals in four years, beat former teammate Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the all-important first goal during a two-goal night and the Devils beat the offense-less Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3-0 in Game 1 Tuesday night.
Playing on a makeshift line that was missing injured center Joe Nieuwendyk, Friesen scored his fourth game-winning goal in seven games to halt the momentum Anaheim brought into the finals off stunning upsets of powers Detroit and Dallas and a four-game sweep of Minnesota.
"Playing my old team, that gave me some jump," Friesen said.
Unable to knock the rust off from a 10-day layoff that was the longest ever for a Stanley Cup finalist, Anaheim looked like ducks out of water against the patient, make-no-mistakes Devils, who now take a 1-0 lead into Game 2 Thursday night.
"In fairness to them, you could tell they had a little rust on their blades," said Devils coach Pat Burns, coaching in his first finals since 1986. "But they'll get better as the series goes along."
The Ducks gave up only 21 goals in their first 14 playoff games but also scored only 33, and they don't have a single scorer among the top 15 in the playoffs.
That scarcity of offense showed up against a Devils team that allowed the fewest goals in the league during the season; Anaheim had only four shots in each of the first two periods and 16 overall, and so few good scoring chances that goalie Martin Brodeur often went minutes at a time without seeing the puck in his end.
It was Brodeur's first finals shutout, his fifth in this year's playoffs and the 18th overall in his career, second only to Patrick Roy's 23.
"The shutout isn't important, the win is," Brodeur said. "Now, our magic number is three."
It also was for Friesen, who got three game-winning goals in New Jersey's tense elimination of NHL regular-season champion Ottawa in the Eastern Conference finals — the most in any playoff round since the Islanders' Mike Bossy also had three in 1984. His goal late in Game 7 on Friday night sent New Jersey back to the finals.
Friesen, traded from the Mighty Ducks to the Devils in the deal involving Petr Sykora last summer, added an empty net goal with 22 seconds remaining, his seventh of the playoffs.
In a game in which the first goal figured to win it in a matchup of the league's hottest goalie (Giguere) against arguably its best goalie (Brodeur), the Devils pressured Giguere from the start.
Finally, Sergei Brylin — substituting for the injured Nieuwendyk on the Devils' second line — controlled the puck near the blue line and swept it to Friesen near the left faceoff circle dot, and he whipped it over Giguere's right shoulder just inside the near post at 1:45 of the second.
"You don't usually think the first one's going to be the game-winner, but with Marty, it often is," Friesen said. "Playing with Giguere, I got to know some of his tendencies. He plays just like Patrick Roy, anything you shoot below 18 inches, forget about it."
In not even 22 minutes, the Devils had as many goals as the Minnesota Wild scored against Giguere in the entire Western Conference final. It was only one goal, but the Mighty Ducks, named after a Disney movie, had to sense the script in this game might be different.
"I felt in the second period the rink was tilted badly; we pressed and then it was here they come," Ducks coach Mike Babcock said. "But we still had an opportunity going into the third period we probably didn't deserve."
The Ducks pulled off the near-impossible in their first three series, winning Games 1 and 2 on the road, including multiple-overtime wins in each Game 1. But, this night, they asked Giguere to do the truly impossible: win a game for them in which they didn't score.
Giguere, trained by the same goaltending coach who tutored the now-retired Roy, was outstanding most of the game, and certainly wasn't the reason the Ducks lost their first finals game ever. They had won only one playoff series before this season.
"I knew it would be tough to generate offense against them," Babcock said. "What I expected was it also would be tough for them to generate offense against us. We had a big opportunity tonight, but we're not going to make excuses. They were hungrier than us."
And if a 1-0 lead seemed big, the 2-0 advantage supplied by Grant Marshall's fifth playoff goal in 12 games must have seemed insurmountable to the Ducks.
Giguere stopped Patrik Elias' shot from below the right circle, but the rebound deflected back to Elias' stick, and he immediately fed it across the slot to a wide-open Marshall for an uncontested goal at 5:34 of the second.
"Pat stuck with the rebound and that made my job a lot easier," Marshall said.
Marshall went 65 playoff games without a goal, but now has five in his last 12 games.
"He's starting to like it," Burns said.
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