The next time the New Jersey Devils put their undefeated home record on the line, they hope it’ll be in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Devils took a major step closer to their third finals appearance in four years Saturday behind a three-goal outburst in the third period of a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Jeff Friesen, Patrik Elias and John Madden scored in the first 7:35 of the third period to break open a 2-2 tie and give the No. 2-seeded Devils a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
New Jersey is 8-0 at home in the postseason and can advance to the finals against the Ducks with a win Monday at Ottawa.
“We have to be ready for our best game,” Friesen said.
No one, except maybe Scott Niedermayer, is looking ahead to a matchup with the Ducks.
“They’re the best team in the NHL,” forward Scott Gomez said of Ottawa. “To think about Anaheim would be crazy, absolutely crazy.”
But that’s what these playoffs have been all along, especially out West. The seventh-seeded Ducks knocked out the top two seeded teams -- Dallas and Detroit -- before completing a sweep of Minnesota on Friday in the conference finals.
Ottawa earned the top seeding in the East after accruing an NHL-best 113 points.
The Senators looked like that team in the first two periods, when they held a 23-13 shots on goal advantage. New Jersey scored on its first shot 7 minutes 25 seconds in, before Karel Rachunek and Vaclav Varada scored to put Ottawa on top.
“This is a game we didn’t dominate, but we found a way to win,” Friesen said. “We got timely goals, and obviously Jay Pandolfo’s goal was the biggest goal of the season.”
Pandolfo scored the tying goal late in the second period.
Niedermayer is one New Jersey player who can’t help but have his thoughts wander a bit. His brother Rob is an Anaheim forward, and they would become the first opposing brothers in the Stanley Cup finals since 1946.
“Of course you think about it,” he said. “But I don’t think about it too much. We still have more work to do.”