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Hockeytown sweep-peat

Wings cruise past Caps, win another title for Vlady

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Posted: Wednesday June 17, 1998 09:19 AM

  Red-handed: Yzerman, who won the Conn Smythe Award, hoists the Stanley Cup for the second straight year

WASHINGTON (CNN/SI) -- Vladimir Konstantinov circled the ice with the Stanley Cup, a champion's smile on his face once again.

It was the moment his Detroit teammates were waiting for: Vlady was here, and the Cup still belonged to the Red Wings.

The Red Wings capped a second consecutive finals sweep Tuesday night, and became the first NHL team to repeat since 1992 by beating the Washington Capitals 4-1 behind a two-goal performance by Doug Brown.

Adding to the emotion, this championship had a tragic beginning, starting with the automobile accident that left Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov with severe head injuries just six days after winning the title Last year.

"We built this season around trying to repeat, but also winning it for Vlady and Sergei," tough-guy Joe Kocur said, his eyes welling between words. "It was a tough time when it happened. It is something we will never forget and to win it in the fashion we did and to have him here and to see that smile on his face, and the improvements he has made in his life since the accident, it's something you can't explain."

The Red Wings celebrated in one of the most emotional Stanley Cup presentations ever.

Osgood (30) made 30 saves and held the Capitals to just one goal for the third time in four games  

After the teams exchanged handshakes, the Stanley Cup was presented to Konstantinov, who was wheeled onto the ice wearing a Red Wings jersey.

He beamed as the Cup teetered on his lap. His teammates formed a circle, and at their urging, he feebly raised two fingers to signify the second title.

"I said, 'Vlady, put two fingers in the air. We did this for you,' " Vyacheslav Kozlov said.

With the Cup still on his wheelchair, his teammates pushed him around the ice in a victory lap.

"I told him I was getting him out of the wheelchair," fellow Russian Vyacheslav Fetisov said. "I said: 'Vladimir, you are going to walk, soon.'"

The Red Wings weren't the only ones with tears in their eyes. Capitals coach Ron Wilson had them, too.

"I think that was outstanding," Wilson said. "That's outstanding what they did. That was a very emotional professional thing that they did, and you'd only see that in hockey."

  The Red Wings celebrate their first back-to-back championships since 1954-55 (AP)

The Red Wings' second straight sweep also gave Scotty Bowman a record-tying eighth Stanley Cup as a coach and capped an emotional and tumultuous season that followed the team's first championship in 42 years.

"Going in, I didn't know if we could really win another Cup," Bowman said. "But I knew that the desire and the motivation was there, and fortunately we did."

"This is for this man, who will run and walk again," Fetisov said, his hand on the shoulder of Konstantinov, who was brought down to the ice in a wheelchair for the celebration.

Konstantinov, considered one of the NHL's top defenseman, watched the game from the stands at the MCI Center. When the Red Wings opened a 4-1 lead early in the third period, chants of "Vlady! Vlady! Vlady!" cascaded through the arena from the thousands of Detroit fans who somehow got tickets.

When the chants reached a peak, Konstantinov's wife, Irina, helped her husband to his feet. He waved his fist and the cheers grew louder.

Even Washington fans seemed to join in as their team's first trip to the NHL finals ended quickly. It was the fourth straight sweep, the first time that has happened in major pro sports history.

Martin LaPointe and Larry Murphy also scored for the Red Wings, while goalie Chris Osgood completed a spectacular series by making 30 saves. He allow but seven goals in 99 shots in the series.

Early woes: Kolzig was beaten for a first-period goal for the fourth straight game  

Osgood, who had been maligned for giving up three long goals earlier in the playoffs, was every bit the equal of Washington's Olaf Kolzig, who was outstanding in defeat.

Brian Bellows, whose wife gave birth to a son between the first two games of the series, got his second goal in as many games for Washington. The Caps had the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference under Wilson and came into the finals as a heavy underdog after the New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated in the first round.

"Guys have different reasons why they want to win," Detroit associate coach Dave Lewis said prior to Game 4. "The biggest reason now is for Sergei and Vlady. Not much has been said about it, but that has been the driving force for this team since Day 1 of training camp."

The Red Wings wore patches all season on their right shoulders with their friends' initials and the word "believe" in English and Russian.

The accident wasn't the only obstacle in the way of the team's bid to become the first repeat champion since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991-92.

During the offseason, the Red Wings traded goaltender Mike Vernon, the MVP of last year's playoffs, and decided to go with Osgood, a younger goaltender. Osgood was just as dominant and the Wings retained the MVP award as well. It went to Steve Yzerman.

There was further adversity with a contract holdout that caused dynamic center Sergei Fedorov to miss the first 59 games of the season. He didn't return until the Red Wings matched a six-year, $38 million offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes, that included a $14 million signing bonus and a $12 million incentive clause if Fedorov's team made the conference final this year.

  Back on the ice: Konstantinov was an emotional lift for the Wings in the playoffs (AP)

As the final seconds ticked off, Osgood held his hands high above his head while Murphy handled the puck in front of his own net.

With about three seconds to go, Osgood threw off his glove, tossed his stick away and reached out to accept hugs from teammates.

As they have done each game of the series, the Red Wings scored the first goal. Brown got it on a power play at 10:30 following a great play by Fedorov, who had the game winner late in Game 3.

This time the $38 million man took the puck from Murphy just inside the Washington blue line, carried it to the face-off circle, turned completely around and finished at the top of the circle. He made a cross-ice pass that found Brown in full stride and he beat Kolzig with a wrist shot from the dot in the left face-off circle.

LaPointe stretched the lead to two goals early in the second period with a shot from just inside the blue line that beat Kolzig to the right corner at 2:26. Igor Larionov set up the shot with a pass from the sideboards.

The goal seemed to take the life out of the sellout crowd. But they got back into the game with just over 12 minutes left in the period when Bellows got his second goal in two games by capitalizing on one of the rare mistakes by the Red Wings' defense, a turnover by Jamie Macoun.

Osgood, who was outstanding the whole series despite limited work, made a shoulder save on a 20-footer by Bellows a little more than two minutes late to kept Detroit ahead.

Murphy, a former Cap who was hooted every time he touched the puck in the series, seemed to put the final nail in the Capitals with 8:14 to play on a power play. Tomas Holmstrom controlled the puck behind the net and eventually found Murphy sneaking in from the right point for a shot from the face-off circle that beat Kolzig up high.

Brown got his second goal early in the third period, capping a two-on-one break with Kozlov.

 

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Multimedia
frame The Red Wings dominate the Capitals for their second straight Stanley Cup sweep
  • Start( .MOV)
The Red Wings paid tribute to Konstantinov ()
Scotty Bowman explains when he knew the Wings were good enough to repeat
Bowman says Osgood stood tall under the intense pressure ()
Doug Brown describes why the Wings are so good ()
Kris Draper says the early pressure gave the Wings momentum ()
Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber says the Konstantinov factor was huge for Detroit and hockey ()
Farber says Detroit could be the team of the '90s ()
Olaf Kolzig says the Caps have a lot to be proud of ()
Detroit's Darren McCarty says this was a great cap to a tough season
Chris Osgood says Game 4 was the easiest ()
Osgood says this championship is more special to him ()
Brendan Shanahan says the playoffs were a grind ()
Yzerman describes his emotions after winning the Cup again ()
Yzerman compares last year's championship to this season's triumph ()
Yzerman says handing the cup to Konstantinov was special ()
Yzerman says the Wings talented, young core could make them a dynasty ()
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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