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Mouse-Trap Upstages Neutral-Zone Trap In Stanley Cup Finals

June 6, 1996

DENVER (AP) _ Forget about the neutral-zone trap. The Colorado Avalanche’s ``mouse trap″ is the talk of this year’s Stanley Cup finals.

Maybe the Avalanche won’t make everyone forget the New Jersey Devils’ trapping defense that helped them win the Cup last year, but the Avalanche have shown they’re not exactly deficient in the defensive department, either.

Colorado’s defense played a large part in Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory over Florida in Game 1, and they’re counting on more of the same as the series continues tonight.

``We had some tough times during the season (defensively), but we had some good times,too,″ defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre said. ``I think being called `marshmallows’ kind of fired us up.″

Lefebrvre referred to a remark by Vancouver Canucks president Pat Quinn in their first-round series that infuriated many of the Avalanche players.

``I think he made a mistake to call it that way,″ Lefebvre said. ``We banged them up pretty well and kept playing the same way in the next series, and we intend to play the same way in the finals.″

The Panthers, who play a variation of the neutral-zone trap, must have thought they were looking in the mirror in Game 1 _ particularly in the second period when the Avalanche held them to six shots. Florida managed merely 26 overall, as opposed to a 61-shot effort it had against Pittsburgh in one game in the Eastern Conference finals.

Once taking the lead with a three-goal burst midway through the second period, the Avalanche simply shut down the Panthers, with notable help from goaltender Patrick Roy, of course.

``He was exceptional,″ Florida coach Doug MacLean said of Roy’s effort Tuesday night. ``That doesn’t catch anyone off guard.″

Rarely will you see Roy caught off-guard, either.

``He’s very confident in his abilities,″ Avalanche coach Marc Crawford said at Wednesday’s practice. ``He works so hard in practices on his technique; he’s a real professional.″

With Roy the backbone, the Avalanche have been one of the better defensive teams in this year’s playoffs _ ranking close to the Panthers in goals-against.

The Avalanche have given up 48 goals in 19 games, compared to the Panthers’ 45 in the same number of games.

Everyone knows about the Avalanche offense, of course. Their explosive capabilities were evident in the first game of the finals when they scored three goals in a span of 3:49 in the second period to break the game open.

During the regular season, they had the second-highest scoring total in the league with 326 goals. They currently lead the playoffs with 68.

When the Avalanche score goals in the finals now, their fans have taken to throwing mouse traps on the ice _ an answer to the Florida fans who toss plastic rats at Miami Arena.

The Panthers will be in an unusual position for Game 2. For the first time in the playoffs, they trail a series after the first game.

`` `Must-win’ is a strong term,″ Panthers right wing Scott Mellanby said. ``Certainly, we want to get a split. If we do, then we’ll have lots of momentum going home.

``I’ve been in one Cup final and was down 2-0 and we lost. I’d like to not be down 2-0 again. It’s not the end of the world, but at the same time, it is an uphill battle if it happens.″

The odds are on Colorado’s side, no matter who wins tonight. Teams winning the first game of the finals since it became a best-of-7 format in 1939 have gone on to win the Cup 45 of 57 times.

``The one thing we have to do is not think that because we won the first game we can win the series,″ said Colorado forward Scott Young, whose goal triggered the Avalanche’s three-goal burst Tuesday night. ``When we won it in Pittsburgh (in 1991) we lost the first game in Minnesota. As a matter of fact, we lost the first game in every series that year.

``We are going to look at the second game as a real important one because we know when we go back to Florida (for Games 3 and 4 Saturday and Monday), they think they can win both games there.″

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