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NHL EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: DEVILS v RANGERS


May 23, 2012


Peter DeBoer


NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: Game Five

Devils 5
Rangers 3


Q. Coach, what was the strategy that you had in mind when your club is on its heels and how do you explain this extraordinary win?
COACH DeBOER: It was an adventure. Kind of a tale of two or three games out there. I thought obviously we got the great start, a little bit of an unexpected 3‑0 lead. We haven't had a lead like that in a while. The Rangers pushed. I thought we were tentative. Started to play a little in between, got away from our forecheck and really for the middle portion of the game, you know, they had us on our heels.
I thought we found a way to weather the storm and we hung with it, and we felt that if we could get back on the forecheck we could create some more offense.
And the goal was a forecheck goal. Kovalchuk goes in, eliminates the defensemen. Gionta scoops up the puck and makes a play.
And our depth guys were outstanding tonight.

Q. How did you manage to weather it?
COACH DeBOER: We almost didn't. We‑‑ they pushed hard. It's a tough building. Tough environment. I think Marty said it after we won the first game in here, you know, this is a tough rink to get a win in.
So we were fortunate and looking forward to have an opportunity to close this out at home.

Q. What has Stephen Gionta meant to this club? He played one regular season game, and a big goal and a big assist late?
COACH DeBOER: Our whole fourth line, I thought they were the story tonight. Gionta gets a goal, Carter gets a goal, Bernie gave us some big minutes.
They really have given us momentum throughout the Playoffs. And that's Playoff hockey. There's always unsung heroes and guys that step up this time of year, and we've got a bunch of them.

Q. The fourth line has been a revelation. When you put them together, what did you have in mind? What did you think would happen? Couldn't be this good?
COACH DeBOER: No, I wasn't expecting this. We just wanted them to be, one, for me to feel confident to play them. And they're all very smart and very dependable hockey players. I mean, we scored the goal with three minutes left in the game and they're on the ice.
I think that tells you the confidence I have in them. So they got our confidence as a defensive group and they've chipped away offensively and contributed throughout the playoff.

Q. What was your feeling when Gaborik scored, the game is now tied, squandered a three‑goal lead and the house is just rocking?
COACH DeBOER: It's tough. It's a tough one to give up. We've got a resilient group, though. I really felt that we've seen it all this year. That's the one thing about our team.
We've had leads and lost them. We've been behind and come back. We've seen just about every situation you can be in and so I don't think we're uncomfortable. I didn't feel any panic on the bench. I thought we started to actually push back a little bit and found a way to get one.

Q. Coach, what was your thinking in calling the OT, I don't have the exact...
COACH DeBOER: We had been pinned in our zone for a while. Had a tired group out there. Had a faceoff in our end and John had thrown out I believe Gaborik's unit fresh.
So just an opportunity to rest our guys and try and get out of that situation without getting scored on.

Q. You used the word "unflappable" about Henrique. Do you feel the same about Stephen Gionta, given the way he's played?
COACH DeBOER: He's come in here and there's been zero intimidation on his part about the situation or about the spots I've put him in or about the guys he's lining up against on a nightly basis.
I give the kid all the credit in the world. He's been fantastic.

Q. We kid around about the dreaded three‑goal lead. Yet in this case do you think it was too many goals too soon and you guys got a little bit relaxed?
COACH DeBOER: I don't know about relaxed. I think when you don't have a lead, when you're just playing, you're not thinking about, you're pushing; when you get that type of lead, you know, your mindset changes just a little bit, and that's all it takes, a fraction, you're a step slow on the forecheck, maybe I shouldn't be going here, and then you're in between. And that's when you get caught.
So I think that's what happened. It was just a slight change in the mindset. We tried to get it back. We talked about it. We did for some spurts. But that's a tough lead to have that early in the game.

Q. You always talk about the hardest game to win is a closeout game. Could you tell us a little bit about that and how you approach your team about it?
COACH DeBOER: I think we'll be good. We're at home in front of our home crowd. I think we worked awful hard to have this opportunity. I'm confident we're going to throw a good game out there.

Q. Is there something about being an unknown quantity, whether it's Stephen Gionta for you or Kreider for the Rangers or Dwight King out in LA that makes it easier to get opportunities in these playoff situations?
COACH DeBOER: You know, the guys you're talking about, that happens every year in the Playoffs. They definitely don't carry the pressure of the Kovalchuks or the Richards, you know, that they're supposed to score every night.
So when you get out there and you don't have that pressure on you, you know, a lot of times you find ways to stick the puck in the net. And that's a story every Playoffs there's some guys like that, and we're fortunate to have a few of them with us this year.

Q. Zajac comes through again. He's done tremendously. How much did you expect of him when he came back, and has he exceeded expectations?
COACH DeBOER: He has, I knew how good a player he was. I got the reports from previous year how important he was to the team. It obviously took him a while to get in the rhythm, but once he got going, you know, he's been outstanding for us this playoff, all situations.
I think it's almost been a benefit he didn't play 82 games. He's fresh. And he's been able to handle the type of responsibility of minutes we've given him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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