DALLAS -- Instead of rushing home to inevitable distractions, the New Jersey Devils savored another night in Dallas.
Fresh off two victories at Reunion Arena, where only other one visiting team won in these playoffs, the Eastern Conference champions stayed around to get a good night's rest.
Easier said than done, as New Jersey is a win away from wresting the Stanley Cup from the Dallas Stars.
''It took a while, but you've got to go to bed sometime,'' rookie Scott Gomez said.
By winning Games 3 and 4 on the road, the Devils return home with a chance to win their second championship. The wait will be a bit longer, with the break before the next game two days instead of the customary one.
''That helps,'' said Brian Rafalski, another rookie who scored New Jersey's last goal Monday night in a comeback 3-1 victory. ''If we were playing again (Wednesday), we wouldn't have time to relax. Two days gives us time to refocus and get ready for that Game 5 after an emotional win.''
It was just over two weeks ago when New Jersey faced sure elimination, falling behind Philadelphia by losing Games 2-4 in the conference finals.
''You never have too big a lead in this game, it seems,'' captain Scott Stevens said Tuesday. ''That is why you don't get too high and you don't get too low.''
After their own historic comeback, the Devils are so conscious of not squandering this chance and want to close out the Stars as soon as possible.
''It is important to try not to get too far ahead,'' rookie John Madden said. ''I know the questions family and friends are going to have are: 'What are you going to do with the Cup? What if you win? What is going to happen afterwards?'
''We don't want that. We just want to focus on the game and what we have to do to win.''
Madden is a big reason why the Devils, who swept Detroit in their only other finals appearance in 1995, are on the brink of winning the Cup. His shorthanded goal was the middle score in a three-goal spurt Monday that turned a 1-0 third-period deficit into a victory.
While the Devils have assumed the leadership role in the series, the defending champion Stars are trying to convince themselves they still have a shot at keeping the Stanley Cup in Dallas.
''Obviously we're down,'' Stars captain Derian Hatcher said Tuesday at the team's practice facility. ''We've dug ourselves a pretty big hole here. I think if you look at the big picture it's tough, and that's why you can only look at it one game at a time.''
The hole is such that only the Devils and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have pulled out of it after the second round of playoffs.
''I don't think we would have ever thought we'd be in this situation, especially 1-1 coming home,'' Hatcher said. ''I think to lose both games on our ice is obviously something we didn't expect.
''We were hoping to be up 3-1 right now.''
At some point the Stars' attitude will have to shift from that of feeling sorry to trying to fight back and make it a series. After playing more than 200 games the past two seasons, the fuel for a comeback just might not be present.
''How about I tell you in a week from now,'' Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said when asked if Dallas' tank was empty. ''Never know, there's lots of gas stations in Texas.''
But Game 5 is in New Jersey, which could be a good sign for the Stars. The Devils lost one home game to Dallas in this series and two to Philadelphia in the last round.
Compared to a near record 9-2 on the road, the Devils are only 6-4 at Continental Airlines Arena. The Stars, on the other hand, won nine of 10 at home before the Devils came to Dallas and are only 4-5 away.
''We'll go out there and play loose,'' said center Mike Modano, who with linemate Brett Hull has combined for 20 of the Stars' 50 playoff goals. ''We're going to go out and play our style. If we do that for 60 minutes, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win.
''We'll put everything into Thursday, and if we can win that, then we'll come back on Saturday and try and do it again.''
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