Top-seeded Detroit took an early pratfall against young and potent Vancouver
The real Dominik Hasek finally stood up—and on his head—in the Red Wings' first-round series against the Canucks, pulling top-seeded Detroit from the brink of disaster in Game 3 on Sunday night in Vancouver. After two opening losses in which he gave up a total of eight goals and was clearly off his game, Hasek, a six-time Vezina Trophy winner, stopped 22 of 23 shots, including a penalty shot, to give the Red Wings a 3-1 victory and justify their belief that he's the superstar who can carry them to the Cup.
"Before the series is over, you're going to say he played fantastic," Detroit captain Steve Yzerman said after a 5-2 home loss in Game 2. "I'm not concerned about our goaltending. He's fantastic and will prove it."
Hasek, who finished the regular season with a six-game winless streak, was brilliant in protecting the Red Wings' lead in the third period on Sunday. In the final 10 minutes he stoned Markus Naslund on a one-timer from the slot, kicked out Ed Jovanovski's rebound shot while sprawling to his left and denied Todd Bertuzzi on a penalty shot.
Detroit's other concerns in the first two games of the series—a lackluster power play and bad luck—also turned in its favor in Game 3. With the score 1-1, Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom blasted a slap shot from the red line that trickled past goalie Dan Cloutier. That good fortune was a marked change from the earlier games, in which the Wings hit the post three times and allowed three Vancouver shots to carom off their bodies past Hasek, including Henrik Sedin's overtime goal in Game 1. "We [finally] got breaks, but Dom had to come up with big saves," Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios said after Game 3.
To win a series in which they were heavily favored, the Red Wings still had to take three of four from the go-go Canucks, who seemed far more relaxed than their opponents. Heading into the postseason Vancouver was the NHL's hottest team—after Christmas it had the league's best record (28-9-3-3) and averaged the most goals per game (3.70). During Sunday's optional skate a dozen Canucks kicked a soccer ball outside their dressing room, an exercise they picked up midway through the season as a tension breaker, and afterward blasted the Notorious B.I.G. in their dressing area.
"They're loose because they're young," Detroit wing Darren McCarty said before Game 3. "It's never been that way for us. There's always been pressure." McCarty was wearing a sweat-soaked T-shirt given out by Wings trainer John Wharton with the slogan NOTHING LESS under a red 16—the number of victories needed to win the Cup. On the back of the shirt was room to write the names of Detroit's victims in each of the playoffs' four rounds.
It was a show of hubris befitting a club with nine future Hall of Famers, including Hasek, who was acquired in a trade with the Sabres last July. Even so, Game 3 was Detroit's first victory in 10 games. One down, and 15 to go.
Scorer Versus Checker
Fighting through constant checks exacts a heavy toll, and the job of Maple Leafs forward Shayne Corson in the first round was to make sure Islanders center Alexei Yashin paid that toll fully. Corson, 35, is a premier checker who learned positional play from his former Canadiens teammates Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau, the best defensive forwards of the past 25 years. Corson hounded Yashin in the first round last season, when Yashin was with the Senators; he had only one assist as Toronto swept Ottawa.