WASHINGTON -- A little more than 18 minutes remained in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals last night, but by that time the Detroit Red Wings had overpowered the Washington Capitals and their fans had taken over MCI Center.
As the Red Wings put a finishing exclamation point on this championship sweep with a brilliant two-on-one power-play goal by Doug Brown that emphasized the Red Wings' power and might with 1: 32 gone in the final period, their fans drowned out the Capitals' faithful with chants of "Vladi, Vladi".
In the stands, behind the Capitals' goal, Detroit defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov, Detroit's inspirational leader this year after having suffered debilitating head injuries in a limousine accident a year ago, smiled through his tears.
Detroit's 4-1 victory completed its drive to its second straight Stanley Cup. The Wings become 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 Scott Bowman, who earned his eighth Stanley Cup last night, tying the record of the great Montreal Canadiens coach Toe Blake.
"I was one of the fortunate coaches to be right there in Montreal [with Blake] and then to come back there," Bowman said. "He did it with a lot of grace. I hope I can, too."
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," Washington general manager George McPhee said. "Our guys wanted to win this thing so badly. They never gave up. We're just a nick away."
Said the Capitals' Brian Bellows: "All it means is disappointment. That's kind of the only thing. You play the game to win. Yeah, it's an accomplishment to get to the Finals, but once you lose it, it gets to be just disappointment."
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 Washington's Olie Kolzig, who made 34 saves again 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 off 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.
"It was really gratifying for us to win and with Valdy in the building tonight," said the Red Wings' Steve Yzerman, the Finals' Most Valuable Player. "After we won last year, you say to yourself if you never win again, be happy we've had it once. But once the playoffs come around, you want to do it again."
The Capitals came out as if they were intent on winning this game. Their fans were again behind them. Signs informed the Detroit interlopers: "Not in our new house" and "We believe in the Caps" and they "whooped" former Capitals and Detroit defenseman Murphy with gusto, still seeing him as a less-than-physical big man.
"You knew they were going to come out and play well and they did," said Brown, who scored Detroit's first goal. "They came out and got some quick shots and were hitting an awful lot and we just had to pick up a step and try and go a little faster."
The Capitals took the first three shots in the period, and that was a change. They challenged for possession along the boards. They made some big hits, let Detroit know they were in the game.
Then, the Red Wings took over.
With 9: 30 left in that opening period, the Red Wings made their power-play count. Washington's Joe Juneau just missed sweeping the puck off Sergei Fedorov's stick and Adam Oates just missed picking off Fedorov's cross ice pass to Brown.
And then Kolzig just missed pinching his legs together in time to stop Brown's blast.
Detroit 1, Caps 0.
The Caps would go into the locker room at the end of the period right where their coach Ron Wilson did not want them, down a goal to the Red Wings.
With 17: 34 to play in the second period, Lapointe scored on a slap shot from just inside the blue line. It was the first soft goal allowed by Kolzig in the series.
But then the Caps picked up their own pace. They forced the Red Wings into icing the puck -- at least five times before the 7: 49 mark, when Brian Bellows pulled the Caps back into the game.
Detroit's Jamie Macoun tried to poke the puck from the front of the net, only to have Juneau pick it up and hammer it toward Osgood. The rebound came out and Bellows was at the crease to pound it into the goal and set off a monstrous celebration among the Caps faithful.
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.
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)
Game 1 Detroit, 2-1
Game 2 Detroit, 5-4**
Game 3 Detroit, 2-1
Yesterday Detroit, 4-1
Pub Date: 6/17/98