EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sergei Brylin was a rookie when he won his first NHL championship. He doesn't remember the feeling, so he's eager to win again.
It could happen as early as tonight. The Devils head into Game 5 with a 3-1 lead over the Dallas Stars in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals.
Five years ago the Devils were also home with a chance to sweep the Detroit Red Wings. They came out tight, but Brylin, who had only played 26 regular-season games and 11 in the playoffs, helped turn a close game into a victory for New Jersey.
Brylin had his memory of that night refreshed by watching a replay a few years ago.
''It was a hard game, especially in the first 10 minutes, and the last 10 minutes,'' said Brylin, just 21 years old at the time. ''I saw how nervous we were the first 10 minutes. And we couldn't wait for the final buzzer over the last 10 minutes. It's not easy to play those type of games.''
New Jersey held a 3-2 lead heading into the third period. Brylin made the last few minutes easier with a goal for a two-goal lead 7:46 into the period. Then he set up Shawn Chambers to make it 5-2 and seal the win.
''I was kind of in and out during the playoffs,'' Brylin said Wednesday after the Devils held what they hope was their final practice of the season. ''I didn't play that many games. I played three out of four in the finals. That was kind of big for me.''
The center spent most of the 1994-95 season with Albany of the AHL, but managed to make an impact with the parent club. He racked up six goals in the regular season before getting his key points in the playoffs.
With a team full of veterans and top talent, it was only natural Brylin felt that was the first of many shots at the Cup. New Jersey didn't advance past the second round again until this year.
''Something like that was in my mind maybe,'' he said. ''We had such a great team, so I felt we'd play well the next year. But we didn't play well and didn't make the playoffs. That was a good lesson for me.''
And one he can pass on to his young teammates, such as rookies Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski and John Madden, all of whom have made major impacts already.
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