In the Stanley Cup Finals, nothing is guaranteed. Certainly the Red Wings were not guaranteed a sweep, although many fans and members of the media would have had it so. Certainly the Carolina Hurricanes did not become Eastern Conference Champions solely by luck and injuries to other teams. They proved so tonight in a close, even game finally won in overtime by the Hurricanes, 3-2.
The game started at a strong pace. Carolina showed their good defensive trapping ability, making Detroit work hard to get the puck towards the net. They also were able to take the play into Detroit’s zone and create a few scoring chances near Dominik Hasek’s net.
The Red Wings were able to open the scoring on a power play near the end of the first period. Glen Wesley had taken an interference call and been sent to the box. Steve Yzerman held a Carolina clearing attempt in at the blue line and fired the puck towards the net. The rebound bounced free of Carolina goalie Arturs Irbe at the same time as Tomas Holmstrom was being shoved on top of Irbe by Aaron Ward. Sergei Fedorov was able to skate out from behind the net and flip the puck over the tangle of bodies in front.
Detroit had penalty trouble of their own early in the second period: over a minute and a half of five-on-three penalty time as a result of overlapping calls to Igor Larionov and Kris Draper. In spite of strong play by Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom, and Chris Chelios, Sean Hill was able to put the puck past Hasek. Hill’s wrist shot from the left wing side deflected off the stick of Yzerman and into Hasek’s net.
The Grind Line regained the lead for the Red Wings with 9:21 left in the second. Darren McCarty passed the puck from the right corner out to Kirk Maltby at the top of the right faceoff circle, and Maltby sent off a fast wrist shot past two Hurricane defenders and over Irbe’s right shoulder for the goal.
Unfortunately for Detroit, the Hurricanes tied the game back up with under a minute left in the period. A sloppy Detroit line change and a sharp pass by Ward gave Jeff O’Neill a breakaway chance. Hasek did get some of the shot, but the puck managed to roll underneath him and into the net.
Both teams played hard in the third period, especially near the end when overtime was looming, but neither team was able to score, and the game went to the extra period. Less than a minute in, O’Neill made the Red Wings hurt again. He stopped Freddy Olausson’s shot around the boards back behind the net and sent it out front, where Hurricanes captain Ron Francis was in position to tap it in for the win.
Shots on net were almost even?the Hurricanes had a slight edge, twenty-six to twenty-five. Game Two of the Stanley Cup Finals will be Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
This is Carolina’s first win at the Joe since moving to Carolina from Hartford in 1997?. No European goaltender has ever yet won the Stanley Cup. This year, with Czech Dominik Hasek and Latvian Arturs Irbe in the nets, it’s guaranteed. And that is the only guarantee you will get in this Stanley Cup Final.