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Hat Trick by McCarty Lifts Wings

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From Associated Press

On a team bursting at the seams with stars, a grinder stole the show.

Darren McCarty scored three goals, all in the third period, as the Detroit Red Wings beat the Colorado Avalanche, 5-3, Saturday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

“I guess when you only score five during the regular season and haven’t scored any in the playoffs, you’re due,” McCarty said before dozens of reporters in a conference room. “I’ve always heard about this room, I’ve just never been it. It’s nice. Thanks for having me.”

McCarty’s only other career hat trick didn’t really count because it came in an exhibition game against the Toronto Maple Leafs two years ago. He’s never scored more than three goals in one postseason, or 20 goals in a regular season.

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Despite his numbers, Hockeytown will always adore the winger for his charisma and his series-winning goal in the finals of the 1997 Stanley Cup.

McCarty’s rugged style provides a needed contrast on a team full of stars.

“We’ve got the 10 or 11 Hall of Fame guys that get it done each night, but when they don’t get it done, we have different guys to step up,” McCarty said. “Tonight was my night. It’s about time, but it’s one game.

“I’ll cherish this for a couple days.”

McCarty’s teammates may joke about his day in the spotlight longer, however.

“I have a better chance of winning the lottery than he does of getting a hat trick,” Red Wing captain Steve Yzerman said.

Detroit, which has won nine of its last 10 games, will play host to the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche again in Game 2 on Monday.

The Red Wings don’t think they will face a shaken team.

“They don’t get rattled,” McCarty said.

McCarty put the Red Wings ahead, 3-2--giving them their first lead--early in the third. He provided a two-goal cushion midway through the period, then padded the lead with 4:05 left. He was promptly showered with hats.

Red Wing goaltender Dominik Hasek, who is 5-0 in his last five games at home, stopped 24 shots. Patrick Roy made 25 saves in the much-anticipated meeting between two of the game’s best goalies.

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Colorado got off to a good start despite being pushed to seven games by San Jose in the conference semifinals.

Detroit had a week to rest after eliminating St. Louis in five.

Colorado’s Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk gave the Avalanche 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the first and second periods, but Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom and Brett Hull each answered with a goal toward the end of each period to tie the score.

McCarty’s go-ahead goal was scored just above Roy’s glove on a wrist shot from between the circles.

“That first goal got the crowd going, got the Wings going,” Colorado Coach Bob Hartley said.

This is the fifth time these Western Conference powers have met in the playoffs since 1996.

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