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Not miffed by the miss

Tikkanen's five Stanley Cup rings overshadow missed shot

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Posted: Saturday June 13, 1998 04:22 PM

  Tikkanen created a lot of havoc for Osgood in front of the net, but it was when Osgood wasn't in net when Tikkanen had a problem (AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Esa Tikkanen will have plenty of wonderful Stanley Cup memories to draw upon when he looks back on his illustrious hockey career.

Tikkanen made his NHL debut with Edmonton in the 1985 finals against Philadelphia, joining a line with Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. He also has shared the ice during the final round with Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey and several other stars. Best of all, Tikkanen has skated with Lord Stanley's Cup held above his head on five occasions.

When he shares these memories with friends and family, Tikkanen probably won't spend much time talking about the time he missed an open net in Game 2 of the Washington Capitals' championship series against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals led 4-3 midway through the third period Thursday night when Tikkanen gained control of a loose puck and skated in alone against Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood. A marvelous fake brought Osgood far to his left, and Tikkanen deftly skated around the fallen goalie before taking a shot that skittered to the right of the goal.

Washington subsequently lost 5-4 in overtime, and Tikkanen and the Capitals enter Saturday night's Game 3 at the MCI Center looking for redemption.

"This is just part of the game," Tikkanen said after the overtime loss. "Too bad it happened today. Hopefully I can bounce back Saturday and do better."

Washington coach Ron Wilson was counting on it.

"He missed the net," Wilson said Saturday. "What can I say to someone about that at this point in his career? He's going to be devastated, obviously, but when you've played the game a long time you bounce back."

The Capitals probably wouldn't be in the Stanley Cup finals if it weren't for Tikkanen, 33, who was acquired in early March to add experience to a team that wasn't even assured of a playoff spot at the time. Tikkanen had two assists in his first game with Washington, and the Capitals ultimately became the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Tikkanen then played stellar defense in Washington's three playoff series against Boston, Ottawa and Buffalo.

"He's one of the big reasons why we're here," captain Dale Hunter said.

So who's going to complain about one missed shot? Not the Capitals.

"We were already up 4-3," left wing Chris Simon said. "That had nothing to do with it. That had nothing to do with the way we broke down. We had enough goals to win. I don't think anyone looks at that as the reason we lost the game."

If Tikkanen would have just fired away at Osgood, a big deal wouldn't have been made about a missed opportunity. But his impressive fake seconds before the shot left him wide open in front of the net.

"He made a great move just to get in that situation," Hunter said.

Tikkanen, who starred for Finland in the 1998 Olympics, had 72 goals and 132 points in 184 NHL playoff games before Saturday. It had been 13 years since his first game, but that one stands out in his memory above all the rest.

Tikkanen was returning from Prague after the 1985 World Championships when Edmonton coach Glen Sather asked him to join the Oilers in Chicago. Tikkanen didn't get into the semifinal game, but Sather asked him if he was ready to suit up for Game 2 of the finals against Philadelphia.

"I think that is most exciting moment in my life," Tikkanen said. "Sather told me I'd play on the left side with Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. All I could say was, `Wow!' "

He won three Cups with Edmonton and another with the New York Rangers in 1994. Now, Tikkanen looks to grab one with the Capitals. If nothing else, he'd like to give Washington fans something else to remember him by.

"He didn't miss it on purpose," left wing Craig Berube said. "One day you're a hero, the next day you should have been a hero and you're not. Maybe he'll end up scoring a big goal for us. He deserves it."

 

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