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Larionov saves Wings in third-longest finals game

6/9/2002

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Igor Larionov's first goal made him the
oldest player to score in a Stanley Cup finals game. By the time he
got his second, he felt a lot older -- and a lot better about this
series.

Larionov scored his second goal of the game 14:47 into the third
overtime and the weary Detroit Red Wings, the NHL's oldest team,
outlasted the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 Saturday night in Game 3 of
the best-of-seven series.

The Red Wings, much older than the Hurricanes but seemingly much
fresher throughout the long night, take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 on
Monday night despite losing Game 1 in overtime.

"We may be old, but I was telling Igor that I'd rather be old
and smart than young and dumb,'' said Brett Hull, a classic
big-game scorer who got the tying goal late in the third period.
"Youth and enthusiasm can only take you only so far.''

Detroit, which had most of the good scoring chances in overtime,
won it on a 3-on-2 break. The 41-year-old Larionov took a pass from
Tomas Holmstrom, cut across the slot, causing Carolina forward
Bates Battaglia to slip to the ice, and calmly beat goalie Arturs
Irbe with a backhander. Irbe made 50 saves before that in the
third-longest finals game ever.

Larionov's goal came at 54 minutes, 47 seconds of overtime, or
only four seconds shorter than the second longest overtime, Dallas'
Cup-clinching victory over Buffalo decided by Hull's disputed goal
in 1999. The longest was 55 minutes, 13 seconds between Edmonton
and Boston in 1990.

"It's the biggest goal of my career,'' Larionov said.
"Holmstrom made a great play, and I decided to wait a little bit.
He (Battaglia) committed to me, and he slid on ice, so I took my
time and put it in.''

Larionov also put Detroit into the lead in a tightly played,
give-no-ground series that is nothing like the Red Wings' blowout
that many predicted. But if it wasn't for Hull, who has specialized
in big goals in big playoff games, they might be trailing.

Hull, who had three game-winning goals in the 1999 and 2000
finals for Dallas, lifted his stick to deflect Nicklas Lidstrom's
shot past Irbe to tie it with only 1:14 left in the third period,
just over nine minutes after Jeff O'Neill put Carolina in the lead.

It was Hull's 99th career playoff goal, and it changed the
momentum of the game -- and maybe the series.

"It's a tough loss, you can't hide it,'' Hurricanes coach Paul
Maurice said. "We're not going to go in waving pompoms and say
it's all right.''

Hull could feel the tension on the Red Wings' bench before he
scored.

"With a team that's playing as well as they are, if you go down
2-1 you're not out of it, but it changes the way they're feeling
about themselves,'' Hull said. "Then, to score and know still have
a chance to win when you were seconds away from losing ... it's
their team that's sagging.''

Hull's goal, a deflection of Nicklas Lidstrom's shot from the
blue line, set up the second overtime in three games, but this one
lasted a lot longer than Game 1, Carolina's 3-2 victory decided by
Ron Francis' goal 58 seconds into overtime.

Detroit dominated the first two overtimes by rolling four lines
to Carolina's three, thus negating the Hurricanes' youth advantage.
Each team had a rare overtime power play in the second extra
period, but couldn't convert. Irbe made the save of the game midway
through the second overtime, stretching out his stick and glove to
barely deflect Steve Yzerman's shot toward a momentarily empty net.

Long before that, with the score tied at 1 for the third
straight game and the next goal seemingly destined to decide the
winner, O'Neill scored at 7:34 of the third, his seventh of the
playoffs and sixth in 10 games.

Ron Francis nudged the puck to O'Neill from the neutral zone
and, with a step on Lidstrom, lofted an end-over-end shot that
eluded goalie Dominik Hasek to the glove side and inside the far
post.

But Hasek, who gave up the Hull goal that decided that
three-overtime Game 6 in Buffalo in 1999, didn't give up another
goal, finishing with 41 saves -- 22 in overtime, shutting out
Carolina for longer than a regulation game.

The Hurricanes are now 7-2 in overtime games in the playoffs.

The home team scored the first goal for the third straight game,
with Carolina taking its first lead of the series on Josef
Vasicek's goal at 14:49 of the first -- and it nearly lifted the
metal roof off the Entertainment and Sports Arena.

Vasicek's goal was the most artistic of a tight-checking,
inch-your-way up the ice finals in which open ice has been nearly
invisible. Just before he would have collided with Steve Duchesne,
Vasicek pushed the puck around the defenseman, regained his balance
and, with Sergei Fedorov draped on him, lifted it over Hasek's
blocker.

Defenseman Glen Wesley got the second assist on the goal, his
first playoff point in 34 games since May 1994.

The sellout crowd of 18,982 was college-like in its enthusiasm
and noise level throughout, perhaps because hundreds of spectators
spent the afternoon tailgating next door at North Carolina State's
football stadium.

The crowd stayed loud for most of the first two periods, only to
be quieted by Larionov's tying goal early in the second period for
Detroit, after one of Carolina's few defensive mistakes.

As the Hurricanes were trying to get the puck out of their own
end, Sean Hill couldn't clear, and Hull -- unusually quiet in the
first two games -- swept in and stole the puck off his stick. In the
same motion, he directed it to Larionov, who nudged it past Irbe.

Larionov, at 41 years and 187 days the NHL's oldest player,
became the oldest to score a goal in a final game, a year after
Colorado's Ray Bourque became the first 40-year-old to score in the
finals. But it is his second goal that will be most remembered.

Although some series take a few games to develop a pace and a
personality of their own, the tone for this one was quickly
established in Game 1 and, so far, hasn't changed.

Carolina, one of the biggest finals underdogs ever, can't match
Detroit in star power or big scorers, so it has forced the Red
Wings to play its game -- patient and physical, with every spot of
the ice defended and no player left open for more than a fraction
of a second.

"I feel bad for the Hurricanes,'' Hull said. "All that stuff
that was said about them before the series? They're a great team,
and they're imbedded in the system their coach wants them to play.
You get a team that plays that way and is determined, it's such a
tough system to crack. They're a tough, tough opponent.''

Game notes
The team winning Game 3 of a 1-1 series has gone on to win
the Cup 20 of 23 times. Pittsburgh in 1991 was the last team to
rally from such a deficit. ... Vasicek's goal was his first in nine
games. ... Just as in most NHL arenas, there are championship
banners hanging from the ceiling, but they belong to North Carolina
State's basketball team, which shares the 3-year-old arena with the
Hurricanes. ... Again, neither team could do any damage on the
power play, with Carolina going 0-for-5 and Detroit 0-for-4.
Detroit is 2-for-19 in the series and Carolina is 1-for-19.