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The Morning Line

Sports Illustrated staff writer Kostya Kennedy checks in after each game of the Stanley Cup finals.

Posted: Fri June 12, 1998

GAME 2: RED WINGS 5, CAPITALS 4 (OT)

Last night, a little after the stroke of midnight, Detroit captain Steve Yzerman was standing outside a carpeted interview room preparing to meet the media at a postgame press conference. Andy McGowan, one of the ubiquitous NHL public relations officials scurrying around at this final, was back in the Red Wings locker room at Yzerman's stall. McGowan was rummaging for something for The Captain to wear. McGowan grabbed a dark slicker, then pulled a baseball cap off a hook. It was a wine-colored lid, with a navy bill. McGowan regarded it. On the cap's forehead, in large block letters, was written "NHLPA."

McGowan put the cap back on the hook. He grabbed another. Moments later, Yzerman sat before the cameras in his slicker, a gray cap expressing "No Fear" in dark letters upon his head.

Utopia has not arrived in the NHL. A league official was not about to bring a cap bearing the acronym of the hated players' association to a press conference. There are still reminders that this is a business, one that's straining the limits of its own viability, one in which players and owners often view each other warily at best. Yet for much of last night, it seemed like everything was as it should be in the hockey world—like everything was just about playing this marvelous game.

Washington fans weren't happy at the end, of course. But for any neutral observer, Game 2 of this series was what you want hockey games to be: the NHL in all its playoff bearded splendor. A 5-4 Red Wings win that, thank goodness, went into overtime—it gave us all a chance to catch our breath after the furious third period.

Throughout the third it was nearly impossible to take your eyes off Detroit's splendid forwards. They'd been good all night, even when down 3-1 after two, and now they were steaming, desperate to get back into the game. The Capitals had wrought a little good fortune, some opportunism and a whole lot better goaltending into their two-goal lead. Even after Yzerman scored his second goal of the game to cut the deficit to 3-2 (and how the faithful shook Joe Louis Arena for their beloved Captain!), Washington got things back under control seconds later when Joe Juneau made it 4-2.

Thirteen minutes to go and now Detroit was back to pressing desperately—even steady, stay-at-home defenseman Bob Rouse was pinching deep to rev the offense. Martin Lapointe scored for the Wings. Now it was 4-3. The Capitals' Esa Tikkanen deked Detroit goalie Chris Osgood to the ice, then missed an open net. The Cup-hungry fans at The Joe started to smell silver polish. They were up and roaring. Scotty Bowman sent rough Joey Kocur out on the ice and Kocur slammed some bodies into the fiberglass. Detroit was swarming on every shift.

Still, the Caps had played well and were battling courageously against shot after Red Wings shot. Detroit would outshoot Washington 20-7 in the third. Dangerous Sergei Fedorov would have 12 of Detroit's 60 shots in the game.

Then, with 4:14 on the third-period clock, Doug Brown, who moments later would have a gash sewn up on the bridge of his nose, seized a loose puck and the day. He scored unassisted. Tie game. Overtime. Fans could breathe again. And then came all those tense minutes of the overtime, five of them played at 4-on-4, a wide open, up-and-down game. The Wings rushing in on Olaf Kolzig, the Caps blasting long shots at Osgood, and then Detroit's Kris Draper knocking in what he would call the goal of his career, so monumental it took some 20 years off his life. "I felt like a little kid playing ball hockey when you pretend you're scoring the winning goal," he said after the game. "That's what happened tonight."

Afterward, as adrenaline continued to course through the Detroit night—"Best damn playoff games in five years, maybe ever. Ever!" whooped my late-night cab driver—the Capitals were stoic in defeat. Kolzig was standing barefoot and patient as the once large and frenzied media pack around him dwindled to just two reporters, then one. Kolzig stayed put, and for the hundredth time calmly recounted every Detroit goal—his five worst moments of the night. He did it with the grace and strength of a professional.

Yes, it was a night when all seemed right in the hockey world, when only the game mattered. Never mind that league official putting the NHLPA back on the hook. We'll think about the business of it all on another day. This night, you could just let great hockey work its magic. You could look over at the young fellow carrying towels in the Detroit locker room and realize with satisfaction that even the clubhouse boy was sporting a playoff beard.  

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frame The Red Wings fought back to tie the Capitals, but both teams needed an extra period to settle the score
  • Start(1M .MOV)
The Capitals held a 3-1 lead in the third period, but Yzerman and Brown led Detroit back (2M)
Kris Draper on getting the game-winning shot in overtime (207K)
Kris Draper explains how the goal rates in his hockey career (288K)
Capitals coach Ron Wilson explains why his team lost (129K)
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