Bittersweet win for eldest Niedermayer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They had kicked, clawed and scratched at each other for nearly two weeks. They had put bloodlines aside, forgotten they were brothers and let hockey instincts take over.

They had poked each other, checked each other, and even drawn penalties on each other. Yet the second the final horn sounded Monday night, the second the New Jersey Devils beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to win the Stanley Cup, the pretending stopped.

Scott Niedermayer, an alternate captain for the Devils, had just helped carry his team to its third championship. In doing so, he smashed the title dreams of his little brother, Rob.

So while his teammates celebrated their Cup victory by parading on the ice and spraying champagne in an adjacent locker room, Scott escaped, found his little brother deep in the bowels of Continental Airlines Arena and gave him a hug.

As he pulled his brother close, he whispered a few words to him. Tears fell from the eyes of both men. They flowed too from the eyes of Scott's wife, Lisa, who had brought the two together. It was an emotional end to a difficult 12 days.

"I told him how proud I was," Scott said. "I told him that I thought he played as well out there as anybody.

"I wish more than anything that I could have taken that Cup, given it to him and had him skate around the ice with it. I wish he could have been with me."

Instead, Rob was trapped in a corner of the visitor's locker room, microphones stuffed in his face, reporters begging to find out just why the Ducks couldn't beat the Devils once in four attempts on the road.

While one brother celebrated, the other cried.

While one brother lifted the Cup, the other took off his pads.

While one brother drenched his head in champagne, the other soaked his countenance in the shower.

"It's tough to swallow," Rob said. "This has to be the worst feeling in sports. To come this close, to be right there and then not get it."

The two brothers, separated by one year, are tight. Before Scott got married, they spent summers together fishing, hiking, camping -- enjoying the outdoors.

"We tried to treat it like any other game, but playing against your brother -- someone you're that close to -- during the Stanley Cup finals, that's special," Rob said.

Facing each other on the ice is nothing new. They've met at least twice a season since Rob made it to the NHL in 1993-94. They went head-to-head in the 2000 playoffs, when the Devils swept Rob and the Panthers in the conference quarterfinals, en route to the Cup.

But playing for the Cup is something altogether different. Rob and Scott were the first brothers to butt heads for Lord Stanley's hardware since 1946. And it's probably a good thing. Families couldn't handle this much more often.

Scott's own mom didn't want him to win. Yet he understood. He had already won two Stanley Cups. He had already won Olympic gold. He had already played in an All-Star Game.

Rob had never come close -- to any of that. So it was of little surprise when the game was over Monday and Scott was parading around the ice with a giant grin on his face that television cameras showed a frowning Carol Niedermayer in the stands.

Apparently, she likes her kids to share.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to her yet," said Scott, 29. "I'm not sure what she's going to say. Other than I know she's going to be proud."

In the seven-game series, Scott registered a plus-eight rating, the highest of anyone in the series. Rob, meanwhile, was minus-five, the lowest of any player on either team.

Scott was a catalyst for the Devils, especially in Game 7. Two of his deft plays from the blueline led to New Jersey goals. And he was a vital cog in the strangling defense the Devils threw at Paul Kariya and the rest of the Mighty Ducks.

"He played a great series," Rob said. "He did exactly what they asked him to do. He did what he had to do to help his team win a Stanley Cup tonight. You can't give him enough credit."

From here, the Niedermayer brothers planned on heading their separate ways. Rob was flying home on the team plane and Scott was headed out with his family to celebrate. The two planned on seeing plenty of each other this summer, like they always do.

And maybe then they can talk about these challenging 12 days.

"It's not easy for him, I understand that," Scott said. "But if anybody's going to beat him, it might as well be me."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com.