DENVER, Colorado -- The two previous games of the Western Conference were remarkably high-scoring, considering that each team has a highly touted world-class goaltender. Game Three was the goaltending showdown that the media and fans have been looking for. The game was tied at one goal apiece as the overtime started. Patrick Roy finally blinked, and the Red Wings took a 2-1 victory to gain a 2-1 lead in the series.
The low scoring should not be completely attributed to goaltending. The Red Wings tightened down and kept better control of the game. Scotty Bowman shook up the lines a little by moving Jason Williams up to center a line with Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan, and putting Sergei Fedorov in between Luc Robitaille and Tomas Holmstrom. He also changed the defense slightly by making sure that Jiri Fischer and Chris Chelios would square off against Joe Sakic's line instead of Peter Forsberg's line.
The "Grind Line" of Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, and Darren McCarty played superbly, keeping Colorado's first line penned in their own end for much of their ice time in the first period. The Red Wings also played a more disciplined game?this time they did not take an early penalty. The Avalanche took the first penalty, an interference call on Rob Blake, but they played a frantic penalty kill which kept the Red Wings from setting up a quality scoring play.
Draper took an interference call for the Wings a few minutes later, and the Avalanche put their power play to good use. Sakic shot the puck from the blue line, and Rob Blake tipped the puck in front of the net. It deflected up and over Dominik Hasek's shoulder to give the Avalanche the lead.
The second period was played more tightly by both teams. The Red Wings shook off Blake's goal and continued to control. The defense took a more active role in trying to score, and Hasek made the big saves when he was called upon.
Detroit's patience finally paid off 5:50 into the third period. Sergei Fedorov shot the puck from the left wing side. The rebound got away from Roy and bounced off of Greg DeVries, then off the toe of Luc Robitaille's skate, and into the empty side of the net.
Play continued tightly until the overtime period. Then the teams unleashed their offense, and the goalies showed why they have both been considered the "greatest goalie in the world". Hasek was especially careful to stop a breakaway shot by Chris Drury, the overtime goal scorer from Game Two. Finally, during four-on-four play resulting from offsetting minor penalties to McCarty and Adam Foote, the Red Wings put the puck past Roy.
Hasek cleared the puck up to Yzerman, who passed across to Freddy Olausson flying up center ice. Olausson fired the puck just as he gained the blue line. Roy was partially screened by one of his defensemen Marty Skoula, and could not even see the puck until it was in his net.
Detroit dominated the game in terms of shots on net; they led forty-two to twenty-one. Game Four of the Western Conference Final will be Saturday afternoon in Denver.
Notes: This is the first time this year that the Avalanche have allowed more than forty shots on net in a post-season game.... Freddy Olausson's goal was his first playoff goal in over ten years.