It all came down to a defensive lapse and a strange bounce of the puck. The Red Wings played much better than they had done to close out the regular season, but the Vancouver Canucks continued the unbeaten streak that got them into the playoffs in the first place. The Red Wings lost, 4-3 in overtime.
The Red Wings were in good form in the first period, shaking off the problems which have plagued them in their past several games. Their first power play was good for five shots against goaltender Dan Cloutier, and their first penalty kill had more scoring chances than the Canucks’ power play. Luc Robitaille gave the Wings their first playoff goal late in the period. Steve Yzerman got the puck across the blue line, and it bounced over the Vancouver defenseman’s stick and up to Robitaille coming in onside. Robitaille faked a backhand shot then quickly switched to his forehand and flipped the puck past Cloutier.
Vancouver came back to tie early in the second. Matt Cooke passed the puck from behind the net to Todd Warriner, who shot from a tight angle to put the puck into the tiny space between Dominik Hasek and the left goalpost.
The Red Wings regained their lead on a power play goal resulting from Scott Lachance’s delay of game penalty. Robitaille passed along the blue line to Sergei Fedorov at the right point, where he unleashed a powerful one-timer shot which soared past Cloutier.
The Canucks got a break from the referees when they got to go to a five-on-three power play because of overlapping penalties to Darren McCarty and Fedorov. The faceoff was in Detroit’s zone, and Steve Yzerman was able to win it cleanly back to Chris Chelios, but Chelios was not able to handle the puck cleanly and Andrew Cassels got hold of it. Cassels took a tight angle shot, and Chelios tried to block it, but instead the puck popped up and into the net over Hasek’s arm.
Detroit scored again early in the third period. McCarty shot the puck towards the net, and Murray Baron tried to clear it away, but instead it bounced off of Igor Larionov, who was being shoved to the ice, and rattled into the net.
A defensive lapse allowed the Canucks to tie the game once more midway through the third period. Mathieu Dandenault tried to clear the puck away up the middle instead of along the boards, and while everyone was scrambling for it, Trevor Linden hit it just enough to pop it up in the air and into Hasek’s net, sending the game to overtime.
An odd bounce gave the Canucks the victory with just over six minutes left in the first overtime. Henrik Sedin carried the puck into Detroit’s zone, waited, then shot, and the puck deflected off of Larionov’s arm and into the net before Hasek could adjust to the deflection angle.
Shots on net were thirty-five to twenty-six in Detroit’s favor. Game Two of Round One will be Friday evening at Joe Louis Arena.
By playing this game, Steve Yzerman became the team’s all-time leader in the total number of playoff games played, with 155 to his credit. Gordie Howe played in 154.