|Red Wings Versus Hurricanes: Game by Game|
|The story of a Detroit championship. Capsule analysis of every game of the 2002 Stanley Cup final.|
Dateline: June 13/02
Even if all the players return next year, this Stanley Cup marks the end of an era. Detroit's coach, Scotty Bowman, retired as soon as the game was over, leaving an almost incomprehensible legacy. Bowman began as a junior coach in 1952 and made his NHL debut in 1967 with St. Louis. In the 34 seasons since he has won more games, more playoff games and more Stanley Cups than anyone else who ever stood behind a bench. The first thing Steve Yzerman did after accepting the Cup was hand it to Bowman to be lifted overhead.
The subtext of a final turn in the spotlight rippled through the entire evening. Igor Larionov played another great, smart game, one that would represent a fitting end to a remarkable career. In the second period Hasek came across the crease for what could be his last jaw-dropping save. Brett Hull and Chris Chelios have been playing since Boy George was at the top of the charts. Steve Yzerman will be back, but who knows if a 37-year-old centre with bad knees will ever make it this far again?
As for the game itself, the Red Wings never really got started until the second period, when they scored the opening goal (Larinov to Tomas Holmstrom), methodically killed a penalty and watched Hasek make the aforementioned brilliant save all in the space of a few minutes. Nicklas Lidstrom, the NHL's best defenceman, played almost 30 minutes again, and was a deserving winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The boxscore makes it look very close. Detroit gave up a late second period goal and played almost all of the third with a 2-1 lead. But rarely has a team looked so comfortable and controlled protecting a one-goal margin. The Hurricanes were not coming back, not if this game went on until training camp next fall.
For a fleeting, frozen moment in the second period, the Hurricanes had the goal they so badly needed. Ron Francis, perfectly positioned at the right goal post, stroked the puck towards an open net to tie the game. He began lifting his arms in celebration. The crowd rose to its feet. The Carolina dream was back in business.
But the puck hit the left post and trickled back out, tucking safely under Dominik Hasek. Detroit's 1-0 lead was safe. But for a centimetre, the goal was lost. But for a goal…
Carolina fans will long remember that goal post. But Francis will not be blamed. The Hurricanes' real problem was that the agonizing moment represented one of the very few occasions on this night when the puck came anywhere near the Detroit net.
Both teams were obviously suffering the effects of Saturday night's overtime marathon. But the Red Wings made better use of whatever energy they had, outshooting Carolina 27 to 17. The Hurricanes have just six goals to show for four games in this series.
The Carolina dream - and for all practical purposes, the 2002 season - ended with just over 16 minutes left in the game, when Igor Larinov converted an easy tap-in to make it 2-0, his third goal in two games. Detroit was in complete control in the third period, scoring twice and hardly allowing the Hurricanes' forwards a sniff inside the blueline. For the first time the series looked like the mismatch many had predicted.
Detroit will likely win the Stanley Cup at home on Thursday. But it hardly matters if they wait another game to finish the job. Whatever drama this championship series offered has been played out.
With 7:03 left in the first overtime period, Brendan Shanahan sat on the Detroit bench shaking his head, and with good reason. Moments earlier, cruising over the Carolina blueline 2-on-1 with Sergei Federov, Shanahan had taken a perfect saucer pass with a wide open net in front if him. The Red Wings' leading scorer leaned into the puck, snapped his stick… and shot it a foot wide.
About two minutes later, Niklas Lidstrom rang a point shot off the goal post, the fourth time a Red Wings' shooter had found iron on this night.
Such tales of woe help explain why this series is as close as it is. The Red Wings are outplaying the Hurricanes, but Detroit's superstar shooters have lost their touch.
It's a good thing Igor Larionov brought his 41-year-old hands and legs to the rink. With a pair of sublime goals, including the overtime winner, the NHL's oldest player showed his teammates how to find the net without a compass and a road map. Larionov picked the perfect time to flash his sparkling form of the 1980s, when he was one of the world's great centremen on what might have been the greatest Soviet team ever.
Once again the Hurricanes had a chance to steal one with their usual mix of tight checking and opportunistic scoring. But fierce commitment to defence is not quite enough. They have now lost a pair of close games and their overtime winning streak has ended. Carolina has to find more goals.
It was the third longest game ever in the Stanley Cup finals. This series gets better with every game.
A much-improved Red Wings team showed up for this one, dominating just about every aspect of the game. For long stretches they were frustrated by Carolina's stingy defence, but overall their passing, checking and puck control was far better than in game one. The third period explosion that won the game for Detroit (two goals in 13 seconds) seemed inevitable.
But give the Hurricanes credit. They kept this game tied right up to the 55th minute, and when you do that the inevitable does not always happen. Until Niklas Lidstrom broke it open with a late power play goal, Carolina was one shot away from a 2-0 series lead. As it is, they must be brimming with confidence as they head home for game three. The Carolina program - dogged checking, smart positional play and patience - worked brilliantly for almost two games. The question now is whether Detroit's two-goal burst in the third represents an aberration in a close-checking series, or an offensive breakthrough that sets the tone for the next game.
Lots of power plays again. After calling 13 penalties in game one, the referees upped the count to 20 in game two (though five of those were related to a last-minute wrestling match). Officiating standards are suddenly far more exacting than they have been all season, which leaves the players understandably bewildered. Equally bewildering is the NHL's timing: Who decided the Stanley Cup final is the perfect time for crackdown?
A worthy start to the Stanley Cup final, featuring as much speed and finesse as possible on what looked like slushy, spongy ice. The goals included a cracking wrist shot by Kirk Maltby, a breakaway by Jeff O'Neill and the overtime winner by a future Hall of Famer (Ron Francis). Both teams deserve credit for not letting the game sag after a string of useless penalty calls.
The Hurricanes earned praise for keeping the Wings bottled up between the blue lines, even though large chunks of the game played fast and loose. Open ice should favour the loaded Red Wings lineup, but Carolina had the majority of promising rushes and their inability to cash in on more of them is an ominous sign.
The third line of Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Darren McCarty was Detroit's most consistently dangerous, not the scenario owner Mike Illitch envisions when he signs all those fat paycheques for stars like Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. Interesting to note who was on the ice for Detroit when Francis was left wide open to score the winner: the normally airtight combo of Shanahan, Yzerman and Sergei Federov along with uber-defenseman Niklas Lidstrom.
Detroit's last good chance to win it came midway through the third period, when Brett Hull made a dazzling charge past the Carolina defence and just missed sweeping the puck past Arturs Irbe. It felt like the first volley of a final Detroit onslaught, but the Wings never threatened again. The Hurricanes also squandered a few chances late in the game, but rather than let missed opportunities define their evening, they found another chance to win in overtime.