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Wings survive opener

Detroit hangs on to beat scrappy Caps 2-1

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Posted: Wednesday June 10, 1998 02:00 AM

  Joe Kocur scored his fourth goal of the playoffs, beating Olaf Kolzig in the first period (Rick Stewart/Allsport)

DETROIT (CNN/SI) -- Repeating is among the toughest things in sports.

The Washington Capitals showed the defending champion Detroit Red Wings that they won't go down without a fight. Despite being dominated for most of the game by the Red Wings, the Capitals showed plenty of fight.

Tomas Holmstrom set up goals by Joe Kocur and Nicklas Lidstrom in a 2:14 span of the first period and that was enough to lead the Red Wings to a 2-1 victory over the Capitals in the opening game of the Stanley Cup finals on Tuesday night.

"There is no such thing as an easy series when you are playing for a professional championship," said Red Wings center Doug Brown, who also assisted on Kocur's goal. "The media might have said this was going to be easy, but we certainly never thought it would be."

The Capitals, playing in the first Cup finals in their 24-year history, came into the series as a heavy underdog, with many prognosticators expecting the best-of-7 series to end in four or five games.

For two periods, the game went as everyone expected. Detroit dominated and Washington barely mounted a challenge, much to the delight of a sellout crowd at Joe Louis Arena that included Red Wings legend Gordie Howe.

A goal late in the second period by Richard Zednik got Washington back in the game and Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood had to make at least six good saves in the final period to keep Detroit ahead.

  Red wall: Osgood (30) made seven of his 16 saves in the third period to thwart a late Washington rally (AP)

"Now we know," Washington coach Ron Wilson said. "We were a little unsure. I mean, we read the papers. We were supposed to get blasted out of here 5- or 6-0 and that didn't happen. We felt we put ourselves in position to win Game 1. We didn't. Back to the drawing board. If we come out with the same effort we had over the last 30 minutes, we'll be OK."

Game 2 also will be here on Thursday night before the series shifts to Washington for games on Saturday and Tuesday.

Osgood had 16 saves as the Red Wings handed Washington only its second loss in nine playoff games on the road. He was spectacular in the third period, twice stopping Joe Juneau in front and making a good save on a blue line blast by Jeff Brown with eight minutes to go.

"Ozzie really made some great saves for us tonight," defenseman Larry Murphy said. "They didn't have a lot of shots, but the ones they had tended to be sharp scoring chances and Ozzie really came up big."

Cap gun: Richard Zednik (left) celebrates with Peter Bondra after scoring late in the second period (AP) 

Olaf Kolzig, who carried Washington through the first three rounds by stopping 546 of 577 shots, had 29 saves. He was defenseless on both goals, beaten on a deflection on the first and through a screen on the second.

"We felt they would stay with us the whole game and that's just what happened," Red Wings center Kris Draper said. "It took 60 minutes to beat them. They're a very persistent hockey club. They are not going away."

The Red Wings dominated most of the first two periods. They outshot the Capitals 19-10, held them without a shot for more than a 15-minute span bridging the first and second periods and only allowed one shot on three Washington power plays.

SI's Michael Farber on Game 1

Well Scotty Bowman is a line juggler. And this time he went crazy. And he did it with the lead. Usually you juggle your lines when you're trailing in a game. This time he went ahead and did it with the Red Wings up 2-0.

His own players became frustrated at his coaching in the second period.

In the third period he gave his players specific tasks. Athletes almost always respond to specific tasks -- most notably the defense pairing, (Nicklas) Lidstrom and (Larry) Murphy. Bowman used it against Washington's European line. That worked very well. Detroit played much better in the third period.

(Steve) Yzerman has been Detroit's best player throughout the playoffs. And he's so good. Both ends he's won big faceoffs. He set up a big second goal for the Red Wings. He started the game playing with (Sergei) Fedorov and (Brendan) Shanahan, and helped set up the second goal playing with Darren McCarty.

I think Washington can be relatively proud of its effort. And it takes more away from this game than the Red Wings. The Red Wings have had trouble playing with leads, especially multiple-goal leads. We saw it happen twice in the Dallas series.

And I spoke to Brendan Shanahan after the game. He said "hey we have to start playing better for our own sake. This can't keep going on like this. We have to punish teams when we get ahead. If they're pinching with their defense, we've got to get on them. We have to convert some of those two-on-ones. It's very important for us to do that."

However, a great play by Andrei Nikolishin late in the second period set up the goal by Zednik, his seventh of the playoffs.

Holmstrom, a feisty Swede who has found a scoring touch in the playoffs, made the big plays on both of the Red Wings' first-period goals.

Playing on a fourth line that had Brown at center and Kocur on the wing, Holmstrom actually made two great plays to help set up Kocur's fourth goal of the playoffs.

After stopping a pass off the boards at center ice by Washington defenseman Sergei Gonchar, Holmstrom retrieved the puck and tapped it off the boards at the Caps' blue line to set up a two-on-one. Brown carried the puck down the left side and backhanded a pass across the crease that Kocur deflected past Kolzig at 14:04.

Kocur, back in the lineup because of a groin injury to Brent Gilchrist, appeared to have his foot in the crease, but the goal was allowed after a review.

"Tomas made a great play to get the puck behind the defense and I saw Joey going hard to the net and I just threw the puck in front," Brown said. "That's Red Wings hockey, a bunch of guys who aren't used to playing together making a big play."

Lidstrom got his sixth goal of the playoffs just 2:14 later on a shot from the left point that Kolzig never saw. Holmstrom dug the puck out behind the net and feathered it to Steve Yzerman before going to the front to screen Kolzig on what proved to be the game-winner.


Related information
Stanley Cup Notebook: Good start for Wings
Fire on ice: Bowman's passion for hockey still burns
Invisible man: Caps' Bondra hockey's best-kept secret
Inside the NHL with Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber: Coach, league clash over glowing puck
Red Wings-Capitals Game 1 Summary
Stanley Cup Finals Schedule
CNN/SI's Season Recap: Red Wings-Capitals
Stanley Cup Winners
frame Watch the Osgood and the Wings control Game 1
  • Start( .MOV)
Detroit coach Scotty Bowman says the third period was huge for the Wings ()
Bowman says Osgood played well despite the lack of shots ()
Bowman says Joey Kocur always scores big goals ()
Washington coach Ron Wilson says he thought the Caps played well early ()
Wilson says the Caps played more aggressive late ()
Wilson says the Stanley Cup Finals jitters will be gone in Game 2 ()
Detroit's Brendan Shanahan says the Wings did make some mistakes ()
Esa Tikkanen says the Caps aren't hanging their heads ()
Steve Yzerman says the Red Wings take great pride in their defense ()
Craig Berube says the Capitals aren't worried ()
Kris Draper says Detroit wasn't content with a 2-0 lead ()
Washington's Dale Hunter has no explanation for the slow start ()
Darren McCarty says stopping the Capitals' snipers was key ()
Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber says Washington will take the most from Game 1 ()
Farber says Yzerman is valuable in so many ways ()
Farber says Bowman almost outguessed himself ()
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