WASHINGTON -- The Detroit Red Wings had celebrated a Stanley Cup before. They'd put away the frustration of 42 long years. But last night, even before Game 4, the final game in this sweep, was in the books as a 4-1 victory and the second Cup was in their hands, the emotion of all they had overcome to get back to this pinnacle swelled up and overpowered the Washington Capitals. And the Red Wings' fans took over the MCI Center.
As the Red Wings put an exclamation point on this championship with a brilliant two-on-one power- play goal by Doug Brown that emphasized their dominance, with 1: 32 gone in the final period, their fans drowned out the Capitals faithful with chants of "Vlady, Vlady."
The chant was so loud, so overwhelming that even the building's video camera was directed behind the Capitals' goal. There, Detroit defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov, the Wings' inspirational leader this year after having suffered debilitating head injuries in a limousine accident a year ago, sat in his wheelchair, smiling through his tears.
"That's a very tight-knit group and -- I mean, when you have somebody like that to rally around, what the heck can we say?" said Capitals coach Ron Wilson. "There's no speech you can come up with or story you can tell that equates anywhere near what that team has gone through and -- that's outstanding what they did. It's absolutely outstanding."
When the game ended, Konstantinov came onto the ice. Caps goalie Olie Kolzig saw him first, and as the Red Wings celebrated wildly at the far end of the ice, Kolzig skated to Konstantinov -- and then his Capitals teammates followed.
When Detroit captain Steve Yzerman finally lifted the Cup, the first person he passed it to was Konstantinov.
"It was really gratifying for us to win and with Vlady in the building tonight," said Yzerman, who was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the postseason. "We were aware of his progress all year. He was never forgotten, but we never used him as a motivational ploy but we've just grown closer as a family and it's probably the biggest reason we're a success."
The series win makes Detroit the first repeat champion since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-91 and 1991-92. And Detroit and Pittsburgh have more in common. Both were coached by Scotty Bowman, who coached his eighth Stanley Cup winner last night, tying the record of the great Montreal Canadiens coach Toe Blake.
As for the Capitals, the most unexpected of participants in this postseason final, they could still rejoice in having reached the first Cup final in their 24-year history.
"I think we competed like champions," said Washington general manager George McPhee. "Our guys wanted to win this thing so badly. They never gave up."
But by the end of the second period, Detroit was leading 3-1 on power-play goals by Brown and Larry Murphy and an even-strength goal by Martin Lapointe.
Lapointe's goal from just inside the blue line was the only weak goal allowed in the Cup Finals by Kolzig, who made 34 saves last night.
But it was Kolzig's counterpart, Chris Osgood, who was just a pinch better in this series. Osgood, who had taken abuse from his own fans over his propensity for giving up weak shots, sharpened his game against Washington.
In Game 4, the only goal he allowed on 31 shots came when Brian Bellows put back a rebound with 7: 49 gone in the second period.
Osgood, who has a career record of 8-0-0 against the Capitals, is only the fourth goalie in NHL history to win the Cup with a four-game sweep in the series in which they made their first Finals start.
"To the common fan, the series kind of seemed close, but as a player you can see that things go your way for a reason," said Bellows. "Because everyone is pitching in and doing their job. In 95 percent of the games, we played very, very well, but in five percent of each game, we had letdowns or breakdowns and it cost us.
"Having won and having lost a final, you really know the difference. You've got to have 25 guys playing so together that they seem like they're impenetrable. That's how Detroit really played. We played well, but we just couldn't play well enough."
It was a bittersweet night for Washington's captain Dale Hunter, who had reached the Cup Finals for the first time in his 18-year career.
"I've kind of enjoyed being here," he said. "I've never been this far before and it's been a lot of fun playing. When you take a run at the Cup like we did this year, new fans come, the old fans get enthused, old players get enthused. Sure, we came up short, but that's hockey."
At the top
Scotty Bowman tied the legendary Toe Blake for most Stanley Cup titles by a coach. Bowman also was the losing coach in the Finals four times:
Coach, Team(s) .. .. .. .. .. .. ..No.
Scotty Bowman, Mon-Pit-Det .. .. .. .8
Toe Blake, Montreal .. .. .. .. .. ..8
Hap Day, Toronto .. .. .. .. .. .. ..5
Al Arbour, N.Y. Islanders .. .. .. ..4
Dick Irvin, Tor-Mon .. .. .. .. .. ..4
Glen Sather, Edmonton .. .. .. .. .. 4
Punch Imlach, Toronto .. .. .. .. ...4
Scotty Bowman holds the record for playoff victories for five different NHL franchises:
Team .. .. .. .. .G .. .. Wins
Montreal . .. .. 98 .. .. 70
Detroit .. .. .. 86 .. .. 57
St. Louis .. ... 52 .. .. 26
Pittsburgh . ... 33 .. .. 23
Buffalo .. .. .. 36 .. .. 18
Washington vs. Detroit
(Detroit wins, 4-0)
Date .. .. .. .. .Result
Game 1 .. .. .. . Detroit, 2-1
Game 2 .. .. .. . Detroit, 5-4**
Game 3 .. .. .. . Detroit, 2-1
Yesterday .. .. . Detroit, 4-1
Pub Date: 6/17/98