Saying Goodbye to the Joe

I don’t know if last night is what I expected from the last game at Joe Louis Arena.  I don’t know what I should have expected, either.

It was always going to be hard.  You want to hold on to every last thing.  You want to hold on to every last thing.

I was taking photos of every third-period faceoff, in case it was the arena’s last faceoff.  Some people I was with made sure to buy beer at the last “last call” at the Joe.  There was the last “Livin’ on a Prayer” and the last “Don’t Stop Believing” and the last goal (Riley Sheahan, because of course) and the last penalty and the last zamboni ride and there were probably lasts that I didn’t even register.  I touched on that a bit on my way out last night.

It’s the lasts that will stick with me.

The atmosphere was fun.  I’ve seen people compare it to a playoff game and I can see why, ’cause the crowd was lively, but it really wasn’t a playoff atmosphere at all.  There was no anxiety.  We knew the game didn’t matter.

I think the post-game ceremony was oddly appropriate.

It was awkward.  There was a 45-minute gap between the game and the ceremony, leaving the crowd wondering what was going on.  Microphones didn’t work.  The whole thing took place on seemingly-dingy red carpets.

The alumni present were an eclectic mix.  Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan and Pavel Datsyuk were absent; the Grind Line and Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom were there; and then there were Andreas Lilja and Fredrik Olausson and Boyd Devereaux.

Then everyone raised their sticks to the air and there were fireworks and it just kind of ended.  If fireworks can ever be anti-climatic, that was it.

As I said, oddly appropriate.

Then it was time to leave for the last time.  The last of the lasts.  And that was the hardest.

Circling the concourse, we took one last look in from several sections.  Stared up at the banners.  Thought about where we were sitting for different games we’d been to.

Then it was time to go.

Fluke Goal Helps Lift Wings Over Ducks

Sticks were high in Anaheim: three times, the Mighty Ducks got away with cutting Red Wing players with high sticks unseen by the referees, even though a high stick which draws blood is supposed to be an automatic double minor. But the Red Wings’ shot percentage was also high, and Manny Legace‘s save percentage was high, and the Red Wings will come home with a 4-2 victory over the Ducks.

Brendan Shanahan scored his first goal of the season in the first minute of the game. Jason Williams passed the puck across the rink and across the blue line, and Shanahan got in after it. With two Anaheim defenders closing in, he wristed the shot, and the puck soared over the arm of goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Most of the second half of the first period was spent with the Red Wings in penalty-killing mode. Even though the Ducks had over a full minute of 5-on-3 advantage with Darren McCarty and Nick Lidstrom both in the box, Mathieu Dandenault, Chris Chelios, and Sergei Fedorov kept Anaheim from setting up an effective scoring chance, and Manny Legace stopped any shots which made it through.

Legace came up huge for his team early in the second period as well. Peter Sykora got through on a breakaway while the Ducks were shorthanded, but Legace gloved the high shot, leaving Sykora shaking his head in confusion.

Again, the second period was full of penalties. The Wings were able to capitalize on a hooking call to their former teammate Freddy Olausson with just over a minute left in the period. Luc Robitaille passed the puck from the blue line to Chelios on the left wing side, then Chelios dropped the puck back to Lidstrom. Lidstrom one-timed the shot, and Giguere had little chance to see it, screened as he was by Robitaille and one of his own defenders.

Thirty seconds later came a strange goal, a rare “gift” goal. Shanahan was going to be sent to the penalty box on a delayed call, and Giguere had left the net so the sixth skater could come in. Anaheim was applying pressure in the Detroit zone. Adam Oates turned with the puck near the side of the net to pass it back to a teammate at the blue line.

The teammate was not there. The puck slid down, down, all the way down the length of the rink and directly into the empty net. Shanahan, being the last Red Wing to touch the puck before Oates, was given credit for the goal before being sent away to the box. Paul Kariya put the Ducks on the board during the resulting power play when the puck bounced from a skate to his stick while he was waiting in front of the net.

The third period settled down for both teams. Ruslan Salei did bring Anaheim back within one goal by one-timing a shot up the center while his teammates screened Legace, but Henrik Zetterberg‘s first NHL goal ensured a Detroit victory. The goal came on the power play. Chris Chelios fired a hard shot from the right point. The rebound bounced back out on the left where Zetterberg waited. He one-timed the bouncing puck into the net before Giguere could slide back across.

The Ducks pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker with just under two minutes remaining, but the Red Wings kept control, and kept the shots away from Legace. Final shot totals were thirty-two to thirty in favor of Detroit.

The Red Wings play next in their home opener on Thursday night, when they will raise the Stanley Cup banner to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena before hosting the Montreal Canadiens in an Original Six matchup.

Done Dominating: Hasek Retires

After months of speculation and weeks of rumors, Dominik Hasek, superstar netminder brought to Detroit for the lone purpose of winning the Stanley Cup, is hanging up the skates.

Hasek, thought by many to be the greatest goaltender in the NHL, came to the Red Wings from the Buffalo Sabres in a trade last summer, part of Detroit’s reloading effort after their first-round loss to Los Angeles in previous spring. Along with summer acquisitions Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull and Fredrik Olausson, chose to come to Hockeytown for the chance to win the Stanley Cup.

The Stanley Cup was the lone remaining goal for Hasek, who had already claimed six Vezina Trophies and two Hart Trophies with Buffalo. Speculation reguarding his return to the Red Wings began during the Winter Olympics in February and heated up after the Red Wings claimed the Stanley Cup two weeks ago.

With Hasek’s retirement, the Red Wings are left without a starting goaltender. They are expected to sign any of the free agent netminders available this summer, a list that includes Curtis Joseph of the Maple Leafs, Ed Belfour of the Stars, Byron Dafoe of the Bruins and Mike Richter of the Rangers.

Hasek’s announcement, which was made at an 11:30 AM press conference at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday, comes on the heels of the retirement of longtime Detroit coach Scotty Bowman.

Hasek said that the Red Wings knew when the came to Detroit that he would play for one more year, and that he would decide about his future after that. He also said that he made the decision five days after the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, after sitting down with his wife to talk about their options.

Hasek will return to his native Czech Republic to raise his children.

BELIEVE, One More Time

It was June 13, 2002, about 11:00 pm in Detroit. A buzzer sounded inside Joe Louis Arena, barely audible over the screaming of 20,058 fans. Players in white jerseys streamed onto the ice, hugging, laughing, some of them barely able to believe they’d finally reached their ultimate goal. All over Metro Detroit, in sports bars in Royal Oak, apartments Downriver, parties downtown, whoops of joy and celebration echoed out into the cool early summer night. For the first time ever, Dominik Hasek, Luc Robitaille, Freddy Olausson, and Steve Duchesne, deserving veterans all, hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup above their heads. And a few moments later, Sergei Fedorov brought the Cup to fallen defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and helped him lift it above his head, one more time.

The Game Five victory against the Carolina Hurricanes did not come easily. As ever, the Hurricanes played their defensive trap and played it well. Matters were compounded for the Red Wings by the NHL suspension of Jiri Fischer for a hard cross-check laid on Tommy Westlund in Game Four. Trade deadline acquisition Jiri Slegr was brought in to fill the spot on the blue line, in spite of the fact that he had not played a game since the regular season. Slegr was ready, however. “Everybody’s dream is the Stanley Cup, and here I’m playing in it right now,” he said.

The first period was scoreless, although the Grind Line created some scoring chances, and Luc Robitaille rang a strong shot off the goalpost. Sergei Fedorov got in all alone on a breakaway, but his shot thudded into the chest of goaltender Arturs Irbe.

The Red Wings opened the scoring early in the second period. Series star Igor Larionov made a centering pass from the right corner behind the Carolina net, and Tomas Holmstrom lunged forward to poke it in for the goal. He was being shoved down at the time, and as he landed flat on his back against the boards behind the net, Holmstrom raised his arms in celebration.

The Hurricanes had a chance to tie the game when Jiri Slegr was given a penalty for holding up big Erik Cole along the boards, but Dominik Hasek made a phenomenal save, screened on a redirected shot, and the Red Wings kept the lead.

The Wings gained a goal cushion, and the eventual game winning goal, on a power play of their own. Jaroslav Svoboda was in the penalty box for roughing, and Steve Yzerman fired a shot on net. The puck flew high, but Fedorov found it behind the net and passed it out front to Brendan Shanahan, who one-timed it past Irbe.

The Hurricanes scored their only goal of the game late in the period, on the tail end of a shortened penalty on Shanahan. Jeff O’Neill took a hard shot from a bad angle on the left wing side. Hasek was screened by Cole, and did not see the shot until it was too late. The shot was so hard and the puck was in and out of the net so quickly that the officials had to review it to make sure it had actually gone into the net.

Play in the third period went end to end, staying mainly in the neutral zone. Carolina played frantically, trying desperately to create needed scoring chances, but the chances would not come. Finally, with just a minute left to play, they pulled their goaltender in exchange for a sixth skater, but Shanahan got the puck from Yzerman, skated it to just outside the Hurricanes’ blue line, and fired a laser shot which landed solidly in the empty net to clinch the Red Wings’ third Stanley Cup in six years. The players wound down the remaining forty seconds or so. The buzzer sounded, and the celebration began. And Jiri Fischer was the first one to jump off the bench and join his teammates on the ice. In front of the net, Hasek jumped up and down like an excited child. “It’s a fantastic feeling, and I’m so happy!” he said.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman presented the awards. The Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player in the playoffs went to the highly deserving Nicklas Lidstrom. And then the Stanley Cup itself, to Steve Yzerman, who took his little daughter Isabella with him to accept the award for the team.

In the middle of the revelry, Scotty Bowman dropped the revelation he’d been holding onto: “This is my last game as a coach.” He had made the decision during the Olympic Break in February, that regardless of this season’s outcome, it was the right time to retire. On top of his coaching game, having broken another of his mentor Toe Blake’s records by winning a ninth Stanley Cup, and ready to go, the winningest coach of all time.

Most of the players have indicated that they wish to return for another season. Chris Chelios and Brett Hull are especially eager to keep their skates for another year. Steve Yzerman, once he recovers from the much needed surgery on his right knee, will return to lead the team again. Dominik Hasek has not yet made a decision. The outcome of the 2002 off-season decisions will be known, eventually.

The outcome of the 2001 off-season decisions was realized tonight, as the Stanley Cup returned home to Hockeytown.

Detroit Leads Series 3-1

When a hockey writer can lead off with a glorious headline like that, why waste time trying to think up something clever? The Red Wings are starting to make up for lost time, scoring the goals that couldn’t get through the Hurricanes’ defensive trap before, and giving Carolina a taste of their own medicine by shutting them down to win Game Four 3-0 and bring a commanding 3-1 series lead home to Detroit.

The first period started just as it had in the three preceding games: tight checking and low in scoring chances. The Red Wings did have an early power play, but Carolina’s penalty killers were in fine form and did not allow the Wings to set up a scoring chance. Hurricanes goaltender Arturs Irbe was tested by only four quality chances in the first twenty minutes, while Dominik Hasek at the other end of the rink had to deal with only three good Carolina scoring chances. The most notable of these happened just as the period was drawing to an end. Rookie Erik Cole dodged around Chris Chelios to go into the zone all by himself, but Hasek came way out of the net and dove towards Cole’s skates, stick outstretched, and took the puck away.

The Red Wings finally managed to open the scoring early in the third period. Freddy Olausson got around a Carolina defender and got the puck to Boyd Devereaux at the blue line. Devereaux squeezed past another defender and carried the puck up the right side, looking as if to shoot the whole way up, but instead he threaded a pass through to Brett Hull coming up the left wing side. Hull dropped to one knee and one-timed the shot off the goalpost and into the net.

The Red Wings dominated most of the game after that. Carolina’s best scoring chance came during a phantom high-sticking penalty to Luc Robitaille. Ron Francis had Hasek beaten, but his shot clanged off the post.

Igor Larionov added an insurance goal early in the third period. Tomas Holmstrom got the puck over to the left side boards in Carolina’s zone, then tied up the Carolina player going after it. Jiri Fischer took a few steps forward from the blue line to get to it. Fischer faked a shot, but instead passed to Larionov just at the right side of the net, uncovered. Larionov held the puck just long enough for everyone to realize what he was going to do, but not long enough that anyone could do anything about it, before flipping it into Irbe’s unguarded net.

Detroit really shut down the Hurricanes after that, lining up and preventing the puck from getting into their zone under Hurricane control. It was basically a game of keep-away, doing to Carolina what they have done to all the other teams in the playoffs. The Red Wings brought one final goal with 5:17 remaining to put the game away for good. Sergei Fedorov brought the puck across the blue line, with Brendan Shanahan following and heading for the net. Fedorov deked past Sean Hill and passed the puck between Hill’s legs, past Marek Malik, and to the outstretched stick of Shanahan. Shanahan made short work of that one, tipping the puck past Irbe for the goal.

Once again, the Red Wings outshot the Hurricanes, this time by a count of twenty-seven to seventeen. Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals will be Thursday evening back at Joe Louis Arena.

Brett Hull’s goal was his 100th career playoff goal. He is the fourth leading playoff goal scorer of all time, surpassed only by Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Jari Kurri…. Igor Larionov broke his own record set in Game Three. He is still the oldest player to have scored in a Stanley Cup Final, just two days older now….. Dominik Hasek also broke his own record, set in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals, with his sixth playoff shutout this year…. Finally, Scotty Bowman broke legendary coach Toe Blake’s record by winning his 35th Stanley Cup Finals game.

“Old and Tired”? Whatever!

It was the third longest game ever played in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was the longest game yet in the 2002 playoffs. And it was finally won by the oldest player ever to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. Igor Larionov played the hero to give the Red Wings a 3-2 victory in triple overtime and a 2-1 lead in the series.

The first period had good pressure early by Carolina, but then the Red Wings got two power plays right in a row. They were unable to convert, but they were able to take control of the game. As momentum from the power plays waned, Carolina was able to increase the pressure again, and Josef Vasicek opened the scoring with just over five minutes to go in the opening period. Detroit failed to clear the puck from their zone, and Vasicek picked it up in the circle, eluded Steve Duchesne, and wristed a shot high over Dominik Hasek‘s blocker.

The Red Wings answered early in the second period. Kirk Maltby and Aaron Ward were both in the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct, creating a four-on-four situation. Brett Hull beat Glen Wesley to pick up an errant Carolina pass in the Hurricanes’ zone, and passed neatly to Igor Larionov at the bottom of the left circle. Larionov one-timed the shot over the shoulder of Arturs Irbe.

Jeff O’Neill regained the lead for the Hurricanes 7:34 into the third period. He slipped in behind Freddy Olausson and got a pass from Ron Francis. O’Neill’s shot rose high and fluttered over Hasek’s glove into the net. The Hurricanes closed down after that, willing to keep a one-goal lead and unwilling to take any risks that could turn into mistakes. They held onto their lead for a long, long time. Detroit got some shots on net, but they weren’t allowed any quality ones, and Irbe was quick to stifle any rebounds.

Finally, with just over a minute to play, the crowd in Raleigh was screaming for their team, ready to celebrate a victory and a series lead. The crowd back in Detroit watching the game on the big screen at Joe Louis Arena was ready to pack up their octopi and go home to regroup for Game Four. That was when Nick Lidstrom and Brett Hull got the job done. Carolina iced the puck, giving the Red Wings a faceoff in the Hurricanes’ end. Larionov won the draw cleanly to Lidstrom, who fired hard. Hull redirected the puck in midair, and it soared into Irbe’s net.

The first overtime saw an amazing number of scoring chances for Detroit. Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan got away on a glorious two-on-one rush, but Shanahan’s shot clanged off the goalpost. Olausson had a clear shot from the right point to the net, but the puck flew off the crossbar. Pavel Datsyuk completely fooled two Carolina defensmen and went right up to the net, but his backhand shot couldn’t lift quite high enough to beat Irbe.

Carolina tried to bring some pressure in the second overtime, but they were no match for Hasek and his acrobatic saves. Finally, past the halfway point of the third overtime, the Red Wings got the break they were able to capitalize on. Erik Cole left his post on Detroit’s blue line to rush up to the play, and the Red Wings got it out of their own zone, leaving most of the Hurricanes behind. Tomas Holmstrom carried across the Hurricanes blue line and left the puck for Larionov, while Mathieu Dandenault headed for the front of the net. Dandenault created a perfect screen to block Irbe’s view, allowing Larionov to skate across the slot and backhand a high shot in to end the game.

Final shots on net added up to fifty-three to forty-three in Detroit’s favor. Game Four will play in Raleigh on Monday night, even though Game Three could had very nearly enough minutes to be two games.

Ron Francis set a record in Game One of this series, being then the oldest player to have ever scored a goal in overtime in a Stanley Cup Final game. Looks like Igor Larionov stole that record cleanly just two games later….. Speaking of being old, certain media personalities who should probably remain nameless have mentioned throughout the playoffs how the Red Wings’ advanced age would be a hindrance to them in overtimes and long series, because they are “so old” that they would tire easily. Hmmm. It appeared to this reporter that those young, strong Hurricanes were the ones wearing out as the game dragged on through the overtimes. So much for youth culture in the world of hockey.

Getting Feisty

With a much more characteristic effort than we saw in Game One, the Red Wings soothed the negative thoughts of those who remember being swept by the New Jersey Devils in the Cup Finals way back in 1995. With a shorthanded goal, a power play goal, and an even strength goal, the Red Wings took a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes to tie the series at one game apiece.

Early in the first period, the Hurricanes were controlling the play and forcing pressure in the Detroit zone. Dominik Hasek stood his ground and kept the puck out of the net, and no damage was done. Little by little, the Red Wings crept back and took control.

Kirk Maltby put the Wings on the scoreboard in a shorthanded situation which had resulted from a holding call on Steve Duchesne. Kris Draper intercepted a Carolina pass in the Red Wings’ zone and sent it ahead to Maltby. Maltby flew up the right wing side, with Nick Lidstrom keeping up on the left, and Maltby’s shot tipped off of goaltender Arturs Irbe and into the net.

The Hurricanes were able to capitalize on a defensive mistake by Detroit and score a shorthanded goal of their own before the period was over. Jaroslav Svoboda was in the box for roughing, giving Detroit the man-advantage, but Rod Brind’amour intercepted Freddy Olausson‘s attempt at a rinkwide pass and went in all alone against Hasek. He faked the shot low, and Hasek dropped to cover the bottom half of the net, giving Brind’amour the chance to put the puck in high.

Detroit came out strong in the second period, not letting Carolina’s late goal throw them off. The Red Wings controlled the puck for the majority of the time, but Irbe was exactly where he needed to be to make each save, and the score remained tied at one. The Hurricanes’ skaters, for their part, kept to their tight defensive style of play, almost as if they had a lead instead of a tied game, waiting for the Red Wings to make another mistake.

The third period continued in much the same way. Carolina seemed content to run the clock down and take the game to overtime; most of their playoff victories have been won in the extra period. However, the Red Wings had other ideas. Martin Gelinas was handed a penalty for slashing Mathieu Dandenault with only six minutes left to play, and the power play, the seventh power play attempt of the night, got down to business. Sergei Fedorov sent a soft pass from the center of the blue line to Lidstrom, a few strides in front of his usual power play spot at the left point. Lidstrom took a hard one-timer shot that beat Irbe high on the short side to break the game open for Detroit.

Kris Draper followed up only thirteen seconds later. A long pass from Lidstrom sent Draper into the Hurricanes’ zone all by himself. Irbe stepped forward to try to cut down the shot angle, but it was no good. Draper’s wrist shot beat Irbe cleanly on the glove side.

Perhaps the most interesting development of the game came after all the goals had been scored for the evening. The two teams began to develop a distinct dislike for each other. Brind’amour gave Lidstrom an unecessary rough shove, and neither Darren McCarty nor Chris Chelios were willing to put up with that. The shoving match spread to all the players on the ice, while the fans roared their approval. Eventually the officials pulled everyone apart and assessed the unavoidable penalties, but not before the first seeds of actual rivalry had been sown. Remember, the Red Wings and Hurricanes don’t know each other. They hardly meet at all in the regular season. They’ve hardly had time to develop any sort of interesting rivalry. It is developing now, and will surely color the remaining games of the Finals, however many there may be.

Game Three will be Saturday evening at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh.

Nick Lidstrom and Kris Draper missed tying the Stanley Cup Finals record for fastest pair of goals by only one second?. Steve Yzerman‘s assist on Nick Lidstrom’s goal gives him a five game point streak…. The high temperature today in Raleigh, NC was 95 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity. Pity the ESA’s rink manager.


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.

On to the Finals!

For the past two days, ever since the Red Wings kept their playoff hopes alive by winning Game Six, the Detroit media has been full of playoff cliches. “It’s a do or die situation.” “The first goal will be huge.” “The Red Wings need to play to win.” Fans took up time at work discussing hockey?perfect strangers started talking hockey while waiting in line at the grocery store or in dentists’ waiting rooms. Anxiety? Yes. Anticipation? Yes. Excitement? Oh, yes.

The fans and media need not have worried. Game Seven was a dream game, the game we all imagined but never dared to give voice to, a stunning 7-0 victory to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals and give the Colorado Avalanche a sendoff to their summer vacation.

The Red Wings came out fighting, and the first goal WAS huge, as well as early and from a not-so-expected, but highly deserving source. Igor Larionov won a faceoff in Colorado’s zone and got the puck back to Luc Robitaille. Robitaille passed back to Steve Duchesne at the left point. Duchesne fired towards the net, and Tomas Holmstrom tipped it as he was being shoved to the ice. The puck redirected between the legs of Greg Devries and past Patrick Roy for the all-important first goal.

Second shot, second goal. The Red Wings continued to control. Steve Yzerman passed the puck to Sergei Fedorov at the blue line. Fedorov carried it in up the left wing side. His hard shot deflected off the stick of Rob Blake, off Roy’s blocker, and into the net.

What next? Keep right on going. After the Wings very neatly killed off an obstruction interference penalty to Freddy Olausson, Robitaille increased the lead by one more. He carried the puck into the zone and passed it to Larionov behind the net. Larionov skated towards the blue line, but gave the puck back to Robitaille on the way. Robitaille’s patient shot slid through Roy’s five-hole for a 3-0 game.

Holmstrom scored again before the end of the first period. Robitaille carried the puck into the zone, splitting between two defensemen. Roy came out of the crease to block the shot, but the rebound angled out to where Holmstrom was coming up with speed to flip it into the net and set a new record?Patrick Roy had never before given up more than three goals in one period.

The Wings started patiently in the second. Nick Lidstrom and Chris Chelios paired up to start, to keep the Avalanche from scoring an early goal and possibly gaining momentum. Colorado did try to pressure, but Hasek was huge in net again, and the Wings again scored early. Boyd Devereaux fought for the puck behind the net, then put the centering pass out front for Brett Hull. Hull looked toward Roy’s far side, lured him away from the goalpost, and then whipped the puck into the space Roy had vacated.

It took the sixth Detroit goal, a power play goal by Olausson from a splendid cross-crease pass by Yzerman, to chase Roy from the net. Backup goalie David Aebischer came in to take his place. The fans filling the Joe let Roy know that he was not forgotten: “We want Roy!” they taunted.

Colorado started the third period slowly, without nearly as much pressure as they are normally capable of. The Red Wings managed to shut them down for the most part, sending in only one forechecker and playing strongly in the neutral zone to prevent any turnovers or careless play. When the Avalanche did break through, Hasek was ready for them.

The Avalanche did think they had ruined Hasek’s shutout when Chris Drury put the puck in the net with 7:10 remaining, but video review showed that Drury had kicked it in, and the goal was disallowed.

Finally, Pavel Datsyuk put the icing on the victory cake during a Red Wing power play with 3:51 remaining. Duchesne passed to Hull from the left point to the left half boards, and Hull angled a pass across to Datsyuk on the right side. Datsyuk’s shot deflected off the stick of Darius Kasparaitis, off Aebischer’s arm, and into the net. The time ran down, the buzzer sounded, and the fans screamed for their team, the new Western Conference Champions. The Clarence Campbell Bowl, the award for Western Conference victory, was presented, and Steve Yzerman accepted it graciously, showing it off to the fans before putting it carefully away. The Campbell Bowl is nice, but ultimately not important. A bigger trophy is calling.

The Avalanche go home. The Red Wings advance. They will meet their opponent, the surprising Carolina Hurricanes, for Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, on Tuesday evening at Joe Louis Arena.

Dominik Hasek posts a new NHL record tonight. Never before has a goalie earned more than five shutouts in a single postseason. And just think, he has at least four more chances!?. This was the most lopsided playoff victory since the NHL expanded in 1967.

Do Or Die

For the first time in the playoffs, the Red Wings must face the possibility of elimination. In spite of a surge of momentum in the third period and the start of overtime, defensive mistakes allowed the Colorado Avalanche to take a 2-1 overtime victory and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

Detroit did not show dominance in the beginning of the game, as they so often have in this series. Instead, they allowed the Avalanche to keep control of much of the game. Dominik Hasek also looked a little shaky, but they kept the Avalanche out of the net through a penalty and until only 2:49 was left in the first period. Peter Forsberg spun around to elude Freddy Olausson, then got the puck across to Steven Reinprecht going to the front of the net. Reinprecht tried to stuff the puck in the left side, then got it back, carried it behind, and stuffed it into the empty right side before Hasek could get over or before Nick Lidstrom could get back with his stick down.

The Red Wings started to perk up offensively in the second period, but the story was one of missed chances. A centering pass bounced up and over Darren McCarty‘s stick. Brett Hull stood waiting and wide open, but the pass hit his skate instead of his stick, and was taken away before he could gather it back. Brendan Shanahan had Patrick Roy cleanly beaten, but the puck rang off the goalpost instead of into the net.

Detroit finally got a break with twenty-eight seconds remaining in the period. Joe Sakic was sent to the penalty box for interference, and most of the power play carried over into the third period. Once play resumed after the intermission, Detroit took control. Hull got the puck to Steve Yzerman at the left side of Roy’s net. Yzerman took the shot from that bad angle, and it banked off of Roy’s back and into the net. Roy tried to cover it up, but the players and officials had seen it?the game was tied at one.

With the momentum from their captain’s goal, the Red Wings were able to apply more pressure. Hasek shook off whatever had been bothering him and came up huge for his team, especially in the last minute of the period when he had to stop a Forsberg shot and rebound from point-blank range. The puck stayed out and the game went to overtime.

Overtime was a frantic scramble by both teams. Again, Yzerman, Shanahan, and Sergei Fedorov all had scoring chances, but Roy held up to the pressure, and the Red Wings finally made the game-ending mistake. Brian Willsie, Chris Drury, and Forsberg got away on a three-on-two rush, and the two Red Wings back both went into the right corner after Willsie with the puck. Willsie got the pass away to Forsberg, who faked out Hasek, then put the puck high as Hasek was dropping to block a low shot.

Shots on net were nearly even, but the Avalanche had a slight edge of twenty-nine over Detroit’s twenty-seven. Game Six of the series will be Wednesday evening back in Denver.

Steve Yzerman’s goal ties him with Gordie Howe‘s franchise record for most playoff goals scored.

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