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Red Wings Deliver a Sweeping Statement

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Detroit Red Wings and their faithful fans turned the nation’s capital into “Hockeytown” Tuesday night.

Behind two goals by Doug Brown, the Red Wings defeated the Washington Capitals, 4-1, to complete a four-game sweep for their second consecutive Stanley Cup championship in front of 4,000-plus Detroit fans dressed in red and white who did their best not to blend in among the sellout crowd of 19,740 at MCI Center.

Throughout the game, Detroit fans made their team feel at home with “Let’s go Red Wings” chants and caused a stir early in the third period when they gave former defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov--who was in attendance--a standing ovation.

“This one was for No. 16, we did it for him,” said Viacheslav Fetisov about his former Russian teammate Konstantinov, who was seriously injured in a limousine accident six days after Detroit’s title-clinching win over Philadelphia last year.

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Center Steve Yzerman won the Conn Smyth award for the most valuable player of the playoffs and Detroit, which swept the Flyers a year ago, became the first team to win back-to-back titles since the Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 1991 and 1992. They also became the first team to complete consecutive sweeps since the New York Islanders did it in 1982 and 1983.

For Detroit Coach Scotty Bowman, the title was his eighth in his 26-season career, tying him with his mentor, Toe Blake, for the most Stanley Cups won by a coach.

“To be thought of in the same breath as [Blake] is a big honor to me,” said Bowman, who did not skate around with the Cup like he did following last year’s title. “Our team just found a lot of ways to win. We were totally focused.”

Detroit, which struggled to three hard-fought one-goal victories over Washington early in the series, made Game 4 look easy.

For the fourth game in a row, Detroit outshot Washington, 38-31, and even though much-maligned goaltender Chris Osgood had to make 30 saves, not too many of them were solid scoring chances.

“I don’t think this was my best game [of the series] because a lot of their shots came from the outside,” said Osgood, who played behind Mike Vernon in last year’s playoffs.

“This is great but I really didn’t [play to prove anything]. I played for my teammates, myself and the fans. I’m excited to win but there’s really no relief yet. I went through a lot over the last two months and I’m a stronger person for it.”

After starting off Game 3 flat and recording only one shot on goal in the first period, the Capitals began Game 4 intent on at least making Osgood work a little more.

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But following a strong start in which Washington fired four shots on goal within the first three minutes, the Capitals’ early momentum disappeared after the Red Wings’ checking line of Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Joey Kocur kept the puck in the Washington zone for nearly an entire shift.

Even a Washington power-play opportunity at 7:17 from an interference on Detroit’s Anders Eriksson could deter the Red Wings. Detroit’s penalty killers held Washington to one shot on goal before forcing a Capital penalty on Peter Bondra for interference at 9:12.

Detroit then made Washington pay for this mistake when Brown scored his first goal of the game from the left circle at 10:30. Sergei Fedorov showed why he is regarded as more than a scorer when he set the table for the power-play goal with a perfect cross ice assist in front of the Capitals’ Adam Oates to Brown, who finished the play with a shot between the legs of Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig.

With a 1-0 lead, the Red Wings--who were 13-1 when scoring first in the playoffs--continued to dominate play as they outshot Washington, 11-2, over the final nine minutes of the period.

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“That’s the story of the series,” Washington defenseman Joe Reekie said. “They score in the first period and we’re playing catch up.”

Detroit took a commanding two-goal lead at 2:23 of the second period when Martin Lapointe scored his ninth goal of the playoffs. Detroit third-line center Igor Larionov created the score when he skated untouched in the Washington zone before finding Lapointe alone at the blue line.

With Washington looking to get back into the game, Detroit’s intensity dropped and a turnover by defenseman Jamie Macoun led to the Capitals’ first score. Macoun misplayed the puck outside the right post and after a quick scramble, Brian Bellows squeezed in a goal past Osgood from the slot at 7:49 to cut Detroit’s lead to 2-1.

The Capitals stayed aggressive after Bellows’ sixth goal of the postseason but Esa Tikkanen gave Detroit another man-advantage opportunity when he was called for goaltender interference at 11:02.

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Detroit again took advantage with its second power-play score of the game when Larry Murphy, a former King and Capital, scored a goal from the right circle at 11:46.

Detroit put the game away early in the third period when Brown scored his third goal in his last three games at 1:32.

“I think the reason why we are so successful is because we are such a close team,” Yzerman said. “Then with the accident, we just got closer. This is sweet and I think we all enjoyed this a little more the second time around.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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DETROIT BY THE NUMBERS

4: Consecutive Stanley Cup finals that have ended in a sweep.

6: Years since previous back-to-back winner (Pittsburgh).

8: Record-tying number of titles won by Coach Scotty Bowman.

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9: Titles for Red Wings, third in history behind Montreal (23) and Toronto (13).


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