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A Devil of a sweep

Devils center Neal Broten knows what a "Miracle on Ice" feels like. Now his teammates do, too.

It's not exactly the same level of upset as the U.S. college kids beating the Evil Empire on the way to a 1980 Olympic gold medal.

But the Devils' version of a Cinderella run has ended with equal jubilation. They are the Stanley Cup champions for the first time in the franchise's 21-year history.

Broten and former Lightning defenseman Shawn Chambers scored two goals Saturday night to provide the offense. The defense once again was stingy, as it has been throughout the playoffs.

The result was a 5-2 victory over the highly favored Detroit Red Wings before a capacity crowd at the Meadowlands. Out came the brooms. One sign read, "How Sweep It Is."

The Devils went 4-0 in the final, outscoring the Red Wings 16-7.

Saturday night, the score was tied 2-2 after the first period. But Broten got the goal that turned out to be the game-winner in the third period. And the Devils got two insurance goals in the third period by Sergei Brylin and Chambers.

"I felt we never had respect," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "It's one reason why the guys were so aggressive. They showed in every game that they were mad and wanted to win. That's what did it.

"When you don't get any credit, you go harder."

Many of the Devils fans in the capacity crowd of 19,040 have endured being in the shadow of the Rangers and Islanders in the New York metropolitan area.

But now the Devils are on top, and they beat the Red Wings in dominating fashion.

"I feel a lot better tonight," Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman said. "After the last game (a 5-2 thrashing on Thursday night), I felt like we were losers. Tonight I feel more like we were finalists."

The odds to start the series were 25-1 against a Devils' sweep. But then again, the Devils have been beating the odds all season.

In March there was a question of whether New Jersey would even make the playoffs.

But the team rallied to finish fifth in the conference, then rallied to advance to the Stanley Cup final, beating Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia despite never having home-ice advantage.

No other team has won the Cup without home-ice advantage for at least one round.

And the Devils have had to play with the possibility of a franchise move to Nashville hanging over their heads.

New Jersey beat the Red Wings, the team with the NHL's best regular-season record, with patient defense, opportunistic goals and solid goaltending from 23-year-old Martin Brodeur.

Their march to the Cup also included an NHL record 10-1 mark on the road and criticism that the neutral-zone trap they employed so efficiently was ruining the game.

"If they don't like our style, too bad," said Devils right wing Claude Lemieux, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. "Watch the show somewhere else."

In the locker room after the game, Brodeur was puffing on a cigar while opening the bottle of champagne.

"Make sure you shake it good," said teammate Ken Daneyko. "I've been waiting for this moment for 12 years."

That sentiment was echoed by long-time Devils John MacLean and Bruce Driver, who went through thick and thin with the franchise and have been teammates since the team's move from Colorado in 1982.

"This is a huge team win," MacLean said. "This is an organization win. We had 24, 25 guys, guys who came in and out of the lineup ready to play. Everybody talks and says we have no stars. This team is built on character, and in the day of where you say you have high-salaried guys and guys can't get along, everybody made the commitment to play the system, and play hard. You're damn right we deserved it."

So Brodeur shook the champagne good and let flow over Daneyko, himself and about 50 of his closest media friends.

"We've been through a lot of ups and downs," Daneyko said. "But this makes up for all of it. This is the absolute greatest feeling."

Added Devils captain Scott Stevens: "This sure makes up for the disappointment of last year."

One year ago, the Devils came within one overtime goal of making the finals, but Stephane Matteau scored and it was their arch-rivals, the Rangers, who went to the final.

"We've worked hard all year to get here," Stevens said. "It hasn't been easy. But we did it."

And then Stevens let some more champagne fly.

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