DETROIT, Michigan -- This time, the Red Wings got the lead and kept it. The Irish Jig blared out over the Joe Louis Arena speakers, and three octopi managed to make their way onto the ice. There's nothing like getting a shutout in your home rink, especially when it's a 4-0 shutout over the St. Louis Blues to close out the Western Conference semifinal series at four games to one.
The Red Wings had to start out the game by dealing with a tripping penalty to Brendan Shanahan less than one minute into the game. They killed it off neatly and took control of the game. Detroit outshot St. Louis eleven to three in the first period. The Wings were not able to put the puck past goaltender Brent Johnson in the first, but they kept the Blues from getting the puck anywhere near Dominik Hasek.
Jiri Fischer opened the scoring for the Wings early in the second period. The puck squeezed out of a tangle in the left wing corner and Shanahan got it free to Fischer at the left point. Fischer's hard wrist shot went off Johnson's elbow and into the net.
St. Louis followed with a power play chance quickly afterwards, but the Red Wings' penalty killers were very efficient in keeping the puck away from the net. Kirk Maltby was especially notable; his stick had been knocked away, but he stayed in position and used his body to block several Blues' shots.
Detroit got a power play chance of their own midway through the period when Tyson Nash was sent off for roughing. The Blues' penalty-killing had been very efficient over the course of the series, but this time they were outclassed. Just nine seconds after the puck was dropped, Shanahan unleashed a hard shot from the left point. The puck deflected off of Tomas Holmstrom, who was screening Johnson, and got through for the goal.
The Red Wings thought they had scored their third goal early in the third period, when Sergei Fedorov got the puck on net in spite of the two Blues' defensemen pulling him down to the ice. Johnson slid backwards into the net with the puck, and the referee originally ruled it a goal, but official review decided that Fedorov had knocked Johnson into the net and the goal was disallowed.
The Blues should have been able to pick up some momentum from having the goal against them disallowed, but they did not. Detroit continued to dominate the game. Hasek turned away any shot which came near him, and the Red Wings kept possession of the puck for the majority of the time.
Shanahan increased the Red Wings' goal cushion with just over three minutes left to play. He flew into the Blues' zone with the puck and fired off a quick wrist shot from his usual spot halfway up the left wing side. The puck went underneath Johnson's arm for the goal.
The St. Louis bench pulled Johnson for the extra skater shortly after that, but it was to no avail. The Red Wings got the puck down to the other end of the rink without icing it. Shanahan carried it around the back of the net, waited for the Blues' defensman to drop low, then put the shot high into the empty net to put an end to this series.
The Red Wings will have to wait at least until Monday to find out who their next opponent is. The San Jose Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche are playing a tough series out west, which the Sharks are currently leading three games to two. The winner will come to Detroit to face the Red Wings in the Western Conference Final, starting late next week.
Notes: Detroit's fascination with octopi came from the old days of the NHL, when the playoffs went for two rounds. The octopus was first thrown onto the ice by a man who owned a fish market near Olympia Stadium: he said the eight legs symbolized the eight wins necessary to win the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings went on to win the Cup that year. Of course today with four playoff rounds, sixteen wins are necessary. The Red Wings have eight. One octopus down, one to go.