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Zubrus is the latest Devil to step up

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have been down but never out at any stage during the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, from the benching of future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur to the incredible rally from a 3-2 series deficit with back-to-back overtime wins against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Or, from the Game 1 overtime loss against the Philadelphia Flyers to the debilitating effect they've had on what was once a potent Flyers offense en route to three successive victories.

Dainius Zubrus
Dainius Zubrus
Right Wing - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 22 | +/-: 4
Let's face it -- the Devils are building the kind of camaraderie and momentum that the serious playoff contenders exhibit this time of year. And through it all, they remain humble and respectful.

That was evidenced again on Sunday in Game 4 against Philadelphia, when the Devils overcame a 2-0 deficit to earn a 4-2 victory and, with it, a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven showdown between Atlantic Division foes.

Incredibly, seven different scorers have been credited with game-winning goals in New Jersey's seven victories this playoff season. In Game 4, it was time for veteran forward Dainius Zubrus to earn the spotlight. Zubrus, who was an 18-year-old rookie with the Flyers when he entered the League in 1996-97, scored a pair of goals against his former team.

Additionally, he shook off a hit to the head from Claude Giroux late in the second period and returned to the game in the third. Just like his team has done throughout the playoffs, Zubrus picked himself off the mat and battled to the bitter end.

"I never really thought about sitting out [the third period]," Zubrus said. "At first you're not sure. You get hit and you're not sure because it's a weird feeling. But five seconds later, I was back into it and even though I went to locker room, I never blacked out. I was good."

His empty-net goal with 44.4 seconds remaining, when he broke away from Danny Briere in the Flyers' end, would ultimately seal the deal.

"When you get on a roll in the playoffs, you have a different hero every night and [on Sunday], he was at the top of that list," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said of Zubrus. "He was everywhere. He did all kinds of things, and kept his composure. They tried to bait him in a few times, and he just played his game. He was great."

Zubrus simply believes it's all in a night's work.


Devils take 3-1 series lead with 4-2 win

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer
Dainius Zubrus scored a pair of goals -- including the decisive goal late in the second period -- as the Devils notched a 4-2 victory over the Flyers to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. READ MORE ›

"Honestly, we had to battle," Zubrus said. "We've had some ups and downs but the coaches have done a good job and the leaders of this team have kept us even keel. We're excited but still know there's a lot of work left to do. That's the best way to go about it … that's the only way you can play well."

Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who was celebrating his 40th birthday on Sunday, needed to make just 20 saves in the triumph.

"It's a grind, and we're looking at this playoff series [against the Flyers] to be just put your head down and work, work, work, regardless of who is the hero … the guys could care less," Brodeur said. "We just want to move on, win and play well. We've been doing it for a few games now, and we just want to keep doing the same thing."

Rookie forward Adam Henrique, who assisted on Zubrus' game-winner 17:47 into the second, said he has felt it was only a matter time.

"It was a huge night [for Zubrus]," Henrique said. "I thought our line [Petr Sykora-Henrique-Zubrus] has played well the last couple of games. But Zubie is a workhorse. He hangs on down low and is hard to knock off the puck. He came through big time for us."

Zach Parise had nothing but praise for Zubrus in a subdued Devils' locker room afterwards.

"He had a great game and he's played really well in these playoffs," Parise said. "He's one of those guys who might not always wind up on the score sheet, but he plays hard and plays the same every game. You need players like that, so it's good to see him get rewarded like that, with him getting injured a bit and then coming back, it's good."

Zubrus finished the game with 13:33 of ice time and scored on two of his three shots.

"I always joke with him that he can do it all," Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador said. "He's always doing something out there. He's got the puck and can drive the net, he takes and gives hits, kills penalties and is just a big body out there. He's a big energy type of guy, so I'm glad we don't have to play against him every night."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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