The St. Louis Blues were prepared to give the Red Wings more of a challenge in Game Two, and challenge they did?more hitting, more shots on net, more defensemen rushing up to join the play and create scoring chances. Still, the Red Wings were able to rise to the challenge and outscore the Blues 3-2, giving them a 2-0 lead in this Western Conference Semi-final series.
The Red Wings controlled the game early and opened the scoring 2:46 into the opening period. Steve Duchesne dumped the puck into the Blues’ zone, and goaltender Brent Johnson attempted to clear it away. He mishandled the puck, however, and Sergei Fedorov was able to intercept it and get it to Steve Yzerman driving to the front of the net. Yzerman tapped it in past the scrambling Johnson.
Both teams took a few penalties in the first period. Detroit did a good job killing theirs off. They spent most of the time controlling the puck in the St. Louis zone and at center ice, making it nearly impossible for the Blues to set up a scoring play. The Blues, on the other hand, ran into trouble with their penalties.
Dallas Drake was sent to the penalty box for roughing with 1:56 left in the period. Nick Lidstrom sent a long pass from the right point across to Brett Hull waiting in front of the left side of the net, and Hull one-timed a wrist shot which hit the inside of Johnson’s left thigh and rattled into the net.
The Blues showed a lack of intensity in the second period, and ran into penalty trouble again midway through. This time, Jamal Mayers was in the box for interference. Chris Chelios passed along the blue line to Freddy Olausson. Olausson fired a hard shot on net, and the puck brushed the jersey of Luc Robitaille on its way past Johnson.
St. Louis came back hard after that, generating a lot of chances, especially when they got a power play chance of their own on a penalty to Kris Draper, but Dominik Hasek held them off in his acrobatic style, and the Red Wings’ defense was able to get the rebounds and clear the puck away from their goaltender.
Unfortunately for the Wings, the Blues carried that late period intensity into the third and were able to score less than a minute in. Chris Pronger carried the puck behind the net, and Hasek expected him to make a try for a wraparound goal, but Pronger instead left the puck for Scott Mellanby coming around the net in the opposite direction. Hasek couldn’t quite get over in time, and Mellanby stuffed it into the net.
The Red Wings picked up their play after that, controlling the puck for the greater part of the period and making the Blues have to go chase it in their own zone. The St. Louis bench pulled Johnson for the extra attacker with over two minutes to play. The six Blues pressed hard in Detroit’s zone, but Hasek managed to keep the puck out, and the Wings finally got it down the ice. They got caught mishandling the puck as the Blues brought it back up on the attack, and Keith Tkachuk and Mellanby brought it back in on a two on one. Lidstrom got his stick down to try to block Tkachuk’s pass, but the puck bounced over the stick to Mellanby. Mellanby’s quick shot jumped into the net over Hasek’s shoulder.
The Blues tried to press their advantage and score again to force an overtime with the forty seconds that remained to them, but they were unable to put the puck in the net again.
Hasek stopped thirty-five of the thirty-seven shots he faced, while Johnson turned aside twenty-eight of thirty-one.
The semi-final series will continue Tuesday evening at the Savvis Center in St. Louis.