Francis strikes again, surprises Red Wings

Wednesday, June 5, 2002

DETROIT -- Ron Francis knocked in Jeff O'Neill's short pass to the top of the crease 58 seconds into overtime, and the Carolina Hurricanes stunned the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals Tuesday night.

Remarkably, it was Carolina's first victory in 13 games in Joe Louis Arena since a game-winning goal by -- yes, him again -- Francis for the then-Hartford Whalers on Nov. 14, 1989.

Detroit, one of the biggest Stanley Cup finals favorites ever, should have known better than to let Carolina go into overtime. The Hurricanes are 7-1 in overtime this postseason, the second most overtime playoff wins in NHL history. Montreal had 10 in 1993.

O'Neill scored the tying goal late in the second period, then set up the game-winner with a pass from along the right wing boards to Francis, who was inexplicably left unattended in front of the net.

It was the second overtime win in as many games for Carolina, which beat Toronto 2-1 on May 28 to win the Eastern Conference finals. Carolina goalie Arturs Irbe is 6-0 in overtime.

The Red Wings opened 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but couldn't hold either as Carolina -- held to seven goals in the final four games against Toronto -- twice took advantage of Detroit's carelessness.

Up 1-0 early in the second period and in control after going on four of the first five power plays, the Red Wings were unwisely drawn into taking two penalties in a span of 37 seconds, one on 41-year-old Igor Larionov, the NHL's oldest player, the other on Kris Draper.

With 83 seconds of two-man advantage to work with it, Carolina tied it at 3:30 when Sean Hill's knuckleball of a one-timer from the upper edge of the left circle eluded Dominik Hasek, who had shut out Colorado in the final two games of the Western Conference finals.

Detroit had two more power plays to work with after that, only to go ahead again on Kirk Maltby's even-strength goal at 10:39.

Maltby's hard wrist shot from the right circle sailed by Irbe and inside the far post, the sixth goal in eight games by the Red Wings' Grind Line of Maltby, Draper and Darren McCarty -- a checking line that suddenly has become a scoring force.

But, less than a minute from taking a one-goal lead into the third period, the Red Wings allowed Aaron Ward to get off an up-ice pass to O'Neill, who skated ahead of two defenders to flick a short wrister by a sprawled Hasek at 19:10 of the second.

Hasek, sometimes criticized for flopping and falling when it isn't necessary, nudged the puck into his own net with his back when he sprawled to play the shot.

O'Neill's sixth of the playoffs also was at even strength, even though the first two periods were dominated by power plays -- six for Detroit and four for Carolina, which is playing its first finals since the former Hartford Whalers of the WHA merged into the NHL.

Detroit ended regulation play on its seventh power play after Erik Cole was called for hooking at 18:19 -- at a time when penalties are rarely called in Stanley Cup finals games -- but couldn't score.

Despite spending considerable time on the penalty kill, the Hurricanes hardly seemed in awe of their surroundings or their opponent, staying in their tight-checking, 1-2-2 trapping defense to constantly clog up the middle and slow Detroit's speed in the neutral zone.

Carolina began the series as one of the biggest underdogs in Stanley Cup history after finishing 25 points behind Detroit in the regular season, the largest gap in the finals since the Rangers' 27-point edge over Vancouver in 1994.

Nearly half the Red Wings' roster was around for their sweeps of Philadelphia in 1997 and Washington in 1998. Each of the Red Wings' last three finals appearances ended in sweeps, as they were swept as a big favorite by New Jersey in 1995.

Notes: Hill's goal was the first scored against Hasek since Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against Colorado. Hasek had shutouts in the final two games. ... Fedorov has five goals and nine points in his last six games against Carolina. ... Detroit has a 24-11 scoring advantage in the first period of the playoffs.

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