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Hurricanes Ones Playing Favorites

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Red Wings can put away their brooms because they will not be sweeping anything in this year’s Stanley Cup finals.

Carolina captain Ron Francis scored 58 seconds into overtime to give the underdog Hurricanes a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Tuesday in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.

The Hurricanes, who would have failed to qualify for the playoffs if they played in the Western Conference this season, fell behind twice to the heavily favored Red Wings, only to rally to send the game into overtime to the dismay of the Joe Louis Arena capacity crowd of 20,058.

Once the game went into overtime, Carolina didn’t waste any time putting Detroit away, improving to 7-1 in games decided after regulation this postseason.

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“Certainly, we feel comfortable in [overtime],” Francis said. “We have had a lot of success in this year’s playoffs when we’ve been in that position.”

Carolina had not won in Detroit since the 1989-90 season--when the team was based in Hartford as the Whalers--and was 4-16 against the Red Wings over the last 10 years. The Hurricanes did not get off to a good start.

Carolina, which had not played in a week since defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference finals, was either a little rusty, a little nervous or both early in the first period. Several times, Carolina players mishandled the puck in their own zone, but Detroit was unable to capitalize on the turnovers.

Goaltender Arturs Irbe, who had the best goals-against average in the playoffs before the game, was sharp. He stopped a couple solid Red Wing chances, including a nice save on Boyd Devereaux in a four on four.

But the more Detroit pressured, led by grinders Darren McCarty, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby, the more errors Carolina made. After failing to score on two first-period power plays, the Red Wings made the most out of their third after Hurricane defenseman Glen Wesley was called for an interference penalty at 14:56.

Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom, who drew the penalty on Wesley, did not pick up an assist on the game’s first goal, but he definitely played a major role.

With Steve Yzerman shooting from the right point, Holmstrom crashed the net and was pushed into Irbe by Carolina defenseman Aaron Ward, leaving a wide-open net for Sergei Fedorov, who knocked in a rebound goal at 15:21 to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead.

Fedorov’s goal seemed to wake up the Hurricanes.

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“We took too many penalties early but I think it was because we were excited to be in the Stanley Cup finals,” said Jeff O’Neill, who tied the score at 2-2 late in the second period and assisted on Francis’ game-winning goal. “We just had to get our emotions in check.”

Trailing by a goal at the start of the second, Carolina gave the Red Wings a golden opportunity to stretch their lead when the Hurricanes were called for too many men on the ice, 34 seconds into the period.

But Detroit didn’t stay on the power play for too long following consecutive penalties on Igor Larionov and Draper, which led to Carolina’s first goal at 7:41.

On a five-on-three power play, the Hurricanes were able to distract Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek just enough and defenseman Sean Hill ripped home a goal from the left circle to tie the score, 1-1. For Hasek, who recorded shutouts in Games 6 and 7 against Colorado in the Western Conference finals, Hill’s goal was the first he gave up in 143 minutes, 30 seconds.

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It took Detroit less than three minutes to regain the lead.

After his linemates, Draper and McCarty, helped create another turnover near the Hurricanes’ net, Maltby gathered in a cross-ice pass from McCarty and blasted in a shot from the high-slot to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead 10:39 into the second. It was Maltby’s second goal of the playoffs and 11th in 93 postseason games.

The Red Wings, who were 9-0 when leading after two periods in the playoffs, appeared to move into cruise control following Maltby’s goal, and their nonchalant attitude caught up with them. O’Neill took advantage of a poor line change by Detroit and scored on a breakaway at 19:10. O’Neill’s shot was initially stopped by Hasek, but when the goaltender tried to smother the puck with his body, he accidentally knocked it into the net, tying the score, 2-2.

“We didn’t want go into the third period down, 2-1,” said O’Neill, who finished with a game-high six shots on goal. “We knew that if we could tie it up, we would be able to maintain our system, rather than being forced to press and take chances. With a team like Detroit, it’s not good to be behind late.”

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In the third period, neither team dominated but Detroit did have a power-play opportunity in the final 1:41 of regulation.


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