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Fedorov Puts Red Wings on the Verge of a Repeat

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With one brilliant play Saturday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, Detroit center Sergei Fedorov demonstrated the skills that made him the Red Wings’ $38-million man.

Fedorov, who had not scored a point in the first two games of the series, took the life out the Washington Capitals with a goal at 15:09 of the third period that gave the Red Wings a 2-1 victory before a sellout crowd of 19,740 at MCI Center.

With the win, Detroit extended its unbeaten streak in the finals to seven games and now needs one more to claim its second consecutive Stanley Cup title. The Red Wings swept Philadelphia in four games last year and lead the Capitals, 3-0, in their best-of-seven series.

Fedorov’s goal was as pretty as they come. After skating down the puck in the neutral zone, he made a hesitation move on Washington defenseman Calle Johansson before firing a wrist shot into the upper-right corner of the net past goaltender Olaf Kolzig.

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“What else can you say?” Fedorov asked about his winning score. “I feel in touch with the game and that is what happened on the goal.”

Fedorov, who held out for most of the season before the Red Wings matched a six-year offer he had signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, had been struggling. In the 5-4 overtime win in Game 2, he played nearly 24 minutes and had 13 shots on goal without a score.

“I was able to really, really generate speed throughout the neutral zone tonight,” said Fedorov, who played 19 minutes four seconds and had six shots. “The coaches felt that I was on top of my game and kept putting me back out there.”

Fedorov’s heroics were needed because of a gutsy comeback by the Capitals, who were hosting their first Stanley Cup game in the 24-year history of the franchise.

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The Capitals began the game as if they were still reeling from the difficult Game 2 loss at Detroit because they needed only 35 seconds to fall behind.

On Detroit’s opening offensive attack, Red Wing forward Steve Yzerman skated the puck up the left side of the ice with Washington’s Esa Tikkanen draped all over him. Yzerman then cut in front of the net and collided with Kolzig.

Detroit rookie Tomas Holmstrom beat Washington’s Todd Krygier to the puck above the right side of the crease and scored into the empty net.

Because Detroit had lost only once in 12 playoff games in which it scored first, Holmstrom’s seventh goal of the postseason put added pressure on Washington to tie the score against Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood, who had given up several soft goals in the playoffs.

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But instead of using Holmstrom’s goal as a wake-up call, the Capitals continued to skate without much life. If not for Kolzig, Washington might have been blown out in the first period; the Red Wings outshot the Capitals, 13-1, in the first 20 minutes.

“We had a bad start to the game,” said Washington Coach Ron Wilson, whose team’s first shot, by Mark Tinordi, came 20 seconds into the game, followed by its second nearly 23 minutes later. “We basically didn’t show up in the first period.”

The Capitals bounced back in the second period to outshoot Detroit, 12-11, but still trailed by a goal at the start of the third.

They tied the score, 1-1, when Brian Bellows knocked in a goal after a mad scramble in front of Osgood at 10:35. Adam Oates helped create the chance when he dug out the puck from under Detroit’s Kris Draper.

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Washington continued to attack over the next four minutes, but a sloppy play in the neutral zone that led to Fedorov’s goal proved to be the difference.

“Detroit is working hard and good teams make their own breaks,” Wilson said. “We have gotten breaks in other series when we worked hard and, you know, Detroit has been persistent and they are here on a mission without a doubt.”

The Red Wings will now get an extra day’s rest before trying to wrap up the series Tuesday in Washington. For the Capitals, they can only hope that they can join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL record books. That team rallied to win the Cup after losing the first three games.


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