Monday, April 29
Updated: June 7, 9:24 AM ET
Lidstrom's shot saves Red Wings
By Wayne Drehs
DETROIT -- In person, he isn't much to look at. Thinning, scraggly hair, a nappy, unimpressive playoff goatee. And after games, those completely uncool black parachute pants.
And there's a reason that with five minutes left in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals and the score tied 1-1, Lidstrom was in the lock-and-load position to drill a blinding slapshot and save the day for Detroit.
It's because of that wicked slapper. And unlike a handful of his teammates, he isn't afraid to use it.
So with the game, and if you want to jump to conclusions, the series on the line, the Detroit coaches knew just who to turn to: the 2001 Norris Trophy winner. They put Lidstrom -- not Sergei Fedorov -- on the right side of Detroit's umbrella power-play formation, hoping he'd get a chance to recoil.
"It was by design," assistant coach David Lewis said. "That's where we wanted him."
It worked perfectly.
Seconds after the switch, Lidstrom took a touch pass from Fedorov and rocketed a slapper above the glove of the seemingly unbeatable Arturs Irbe.
"They are good at blocking shots and getting in front of the shots," Lidstrom said. "On that particular play, Sergei was on top and I was on the right side and they gave me an open lane, so I took the shot and tried to get it up high on Irbe. Luckily, I got the puck through."
Luckily? Irbe barely saw the puck. While he was falling to his knees, hoping to pounce on the shot, the puck sped above his glove.
Thirteen seconds later, Lidstrom again contributed, assisting Kris Draper on another goal that put the game all but out of reach.
But it was Lidstrom's slapper that was the difference maker. Not only did it give Detroit a 2-1 lead, not only did it uncork the pensive Red Wings faithful, but it just may have saved the Wings' season.
Until that point, Detroit couldn't put pesky Carolina away. And the Wings learned in Game 1 the potential danger that can cause.
"It was the right shot at the right time -- just what we needed," Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek said of Lidstrom's blast. "Just a huge shot."
For much of Game 2, the Red Wings pelted Arturs Irbe with shot after shot after shot. But they couldn't get anything by him. No combination worked.
Yzerman-Fedorov-Lidstrom -- SAVE.
McCarty-Draper-Maltby -- SAVE.
Lidstrom-Yzerman-Shanahan -- SAVE.
It seemed Irbe and the 'Canes just couldn't be beat. Irbe saved 27 shots while the Carolina defense blocked 28 others.
The few times they did leave a crack in the net open, the Wings failed to hit it home. In the third period alone, Kirk Maltby missed a backhander. Draper missed an open opportunity. And after finding Irbe spread on the ice with the top shelf bare, Igor Larionov feathered a shot, only to watch the goalie make a backhanded save.
Carolina, 7-0 this postseason when tied after the second period, kept dodging bullet after bullet. Though it seemed like it was just a matter of time before Detroit would score, the 'Canes kept positive.
"You never think it's inevitable," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "You never think -- no matter how poor you might be playing -- that the next shot they take is going to get past your goalie. I was staying positive."
The Red Wings, on the other hand, kept plugging away, kept poking shots at Irbe, to the left, right, top shelf, bottom shelf, anywhere they could try to sneak one through.
"We just felt that if we stuck with it and didn't take any unnecessary chances, that eventually we would score," Yzerman said. "The key was to stay aggressive, but not do anything dumb that would take away from our defense."
Finally, when Martin Gelinas slashed Detroit defenseman Mathieu Dandenault at the 14-minute mark of the third period, it set up Detroit for its game-winning power play. Until then, the Red Wings were 0-for-6 on the power play with just four shots on goal.
"We talked about keeping our composure, not getting frustrated and continuing to work on the things that we were doing," Lidstrom said. "And we were going to find an opening or get an opening at some point. So we told ourselves just to keep our composure, stay positive and it would work out for us."
Eventually, it did. The Red Wings placed Lidstrom to the right of the point and watched him execute his slapshot to perfection. After the game, after his 10-minute session at the interview podium, Lidstrom, wearing black Red Wings parachute pants and a matching black sweatshirt, could barely walk back to the dressing room without being stopped for congratulations.
Said one Red Wings fan, an older gentleman who walked with a cane and had a raspy voice, "Hell of a job, Nick, hell of a job. You did it tonight."
No one would argue.
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com.