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Commanding Fedorov Puts Red Wings in Same Position

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s a move they don’t teach in hockey school. It’s the one where the center is sitting on his backside in the corner and is hemmed in by two opponents but makes a perfect pass to his right winger, who finds their left wing for a game-winning, series-busting goal.

Detroit’s Sergei Fedorov pulled it off Thursday as if he had spent hours calculating when to pass the puck to Tomas Holmstrom and how much force to put behind it. He called the play “unusual.” Because it worked, call the Red Wings’ Eastern Conference semifinal series against the St. Louis Blues practically over.

Fedorov’s tenacity led to Vyacheslav Kozlov’s go-ahead goal at 1:12 of the third period, and Fedorov added a short-handed goal and an empty-netter to launch the Red Wings to a 5-2 victory over the Blues at the Kiel Center and a 3-1 series lead. Game 5 will be Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

“It looks like an insurmountable task, particularly the way Detroit is playing,” Blues Coach Joel Quenneville said, “but you can’t look at the broad picture. You’ve got to look at the short term. But it is a huge task.”

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As in Game 3, the Red Wings let the Blues come back from a two-goal deficit Thursday--and as in their double-overtime victory Tuesday, the Red Wings quashed the Blues with a marvelous display of skill.

Goals by Jim Campbell at 1:16 of the second period and Pierre Turgeon with 6.4 seconds left in the period gave the Blues new life and energized the crowd of 20,681, but Fedorov’s setup for Holmstrom and Kozlov’s quick wrist shot from the left side of the slot left the Blues reeling.

“Holmer showed up and Kozzie showed up, and it was a boom-boom situation,” said Fedorov, who will earn a $12-million bonus if the Red Wings advance to the conference finals. “Kozzie, he reads the play very well.”

The Blues never recovered because the Red Wings constantly pressured them into turnovers, won the key battles and shut down their top player. Brett Hull was a nonfactor for the third consecutive game; he has one goal on 13 shots in the series and has a minus-one plus/minus rating.

Hull has long been the darling of Blues fans, but he was booed in the third period by the season’s biggest crowd--and he acknowledged it was deserved.

“It’s up to myself. We’ve won one game in this series and I’ve got the game-winner and since then it’s been a blank,” Hull said, referring to the Blues’ series-opening 4-2 victory. “I’ve got to take responsibility.

“Right now, it’s a struggle out there. But we know it can be done. Look what Edmonton did against Colorado [in overcoming a 3-1 series deficit in the first round]. A guy like myself has got to bear down even more.”

Detroit had built a 2-0 lead on Brendan Shanahan’s power-play goal from deep on the right wing at 9:20 of the first period and Joe Kocur’s breakaway out of the penalty box 54 seconds into the second period, but the Blues had a rally left in them. Jim Campbell jabbed his own rebound past Chris Osgood at 1:16 and Turgeon scored his fourth playoff goal after he darted behind Shanahan and slipped the puck inside the right post at 19:53.

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“Them scoring that second goal was a real downer, but it woke us up between periods,” Detroit Coach Scotty Bowman said. “We said if we keep playing like that, we’re not going to win the series.”

The Red Wings wrested control of the game in the third period, thanks to Fedorov’s setup and his short-handed goal at 8:05 off a lead pass from Kris Draper. Fedorov then found the empty net for his eighth goal, tops in the playoffs.

The Red Wings are poised to eliminate the Blues for the third consecutive season, but they’re too smart to be cocky.

“This is certainly a tough place to play and we had our trouble here this year,” Shanahan said. “We just have to keep playing hard. We have many different leaders, and all our players do things like block shots, take hits and backcheck, the things you need to do to be successful.”

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