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FRIESEN GETS DEVILS OFF TO FLYING START

Jeff Friesen is getting used to this podium, sitting in front of a gallery of media members as the night's hockey hero.

After playing in relative anonymity throughout most of the postseason, Friesen has stepped into the spotlight by doing the one thing that gets you there -- scoring important goals.

Friesen, who sent the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals with the game-winning goal in Game Seven against Ottawa, continued his surge Tuesday with the first goal, which turned out to be the game-winner, of Game One against Anaheim. He added an empty-netter in the third period to help the Devils seal a 3-0 victory.

"I was pretty excited," Friesen said of scoring his first goal Tuesday night. "This is the Cup Finals. I don't know what I think sometimes when I score those goals."

Friesen has tallied four game-winning goals in the past seven games, and has recorded at least one point in six of the past eight games dating back to Game One at Ottawa. He had just two goals and three assists through the first two rounds, but has since put in four goals and dished out two assists.

"He's played well all year long," Devils coach Pat Burns said. "I don't think he's turned on a button or flipped a switch that has made him score goals. He just gets opportunities and puts them away."

Friesen took advantage of his first chance just 1:45 into the second period. He took Sergei Brylin's pass from the corner, and wristed a shot past Jean-Sebastien Giguere into the top corner of the goal.

It sent the Continental Arena crowd into an uproar, and proved to the Devils that Giguere could be scored upon, that he was human.

Friesen, though, knew this all along since he spent enough time playing with Giguere to learn a few of his tendencies, such as lifting the shot to beat him.

"I just got to the shot, took a look where he (Giguere) was, and hit my shot," said Friesen. "They happen quick."

Friesen's goal also sent the Devils offense into a frenzy. They had 14 more shots on net in the second period and took the 1-0 lead into the locker room after getting just six shots on Giguere in a scoreless first period.

The Devils dominated with plenty of odd-man rushes, while giving up only eight shots through two periods.

"It's nice to contribute," Friesen said. "Certainly, you don't think the first one will be the game-winner, but with Marty (Brodeur) in net a lot of times it is."

The Devils got their second goal from a forward who has also caught fire in recent games.

Grant Marshall, a trade deadline acquisition, scored into a wide open net off a set-up by Patrik Elias 5:34 into the third period.

-- "I don't think it could have worked out any better for Grant," the injured Joe Nieuwendyk said of Marshall, who was his teammate in Dallas but who demanded a trade to get away from then coach Ken Hitchcock. "This is a real good situation, and he's really settled into playing here. He's enjoying himself as much as I've ever seen him in the time I've known him."

And it shows in his play. Marshall went 59 playoff games with the Stars and never scored a goal. It was a record for forwards in the NHL. He went the first six playoff games in New Jersey and also never dented the net to push the total to 65 games. But now he has five goals in the last 12 playoff games and has become a huge part of the Devils' formula for victory.

He also set up Friesen for his Game Seven game-winner against Ottawa.

The shutout was the first for New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur in 18 career Stanley Cup finals games. It was his fifth shutout this postseason, one behind the NHL record Dominik Hasek set last season, and the 18th of his playoff career.

But while Brodeur was good, he didn't have to be spectacular. Former Devil Petr Sykora, who led the Ducks with 34 goals this season, beat Brodeur five minutes into the game, but his shot rang off the goal post. Anaheim didn't have a sniff the rest of the game, managing just 16 shots.

"I knew it was going to be tough to generate offense against them," Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said. "They did a real good job, stuck on the puck, played hard defensively. I don't think we engaged in the physical part of the game at all."

Friesen knew he would be a focus off the ice in this series. After all, he was a member of the Mighty Ducks for all of last season and a part of the 2000-01 season before an off-season trade sent him to New Jersey along with Oleg Tverdovsky for Petr Sykora and three others.

So he politely answered questions while awaiting the chance to finally step on the ice against his former mates, and make a difference.

"It was a great opportunity when I came here," said Friesen. "It's one step closer to my dream of winning the Stanley Cup."

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