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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

Wings stumble

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - The slumping Detroit Red Wings still are 0-for-April.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks remain one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

Henrik Sedin's shot deflected off Igor Larionov and past Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek with 6:01 remaining in overtime, lifting the Canucks to a 4-3 victory over the Red Wings in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series last night before 20,058 fans at Joe Louis Arena.

“When a puck's deflected like that, there's not much you can do,” Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman said.

Top-seeded Detroit, which had the NHL's best regular-season record despite winning just one of its final 10 games, blew three one-goal leads against the eighth-seeded Canucks, who were 13-2-1 in their last 16 regular-season games.

“They've been the best team in the league since Christmas,” Detroit's Luc Robitaille said. “We expected them to come out and play like this.”

What the Red Wings didn't expect was the Canucks to score two goals off deflections.

Earlier, a second-period goal by Vancouver's Andrew Cassels on a 5-on-3 power play deflected off Chris Chelios' stick and into the net.

“Two lucky bounces - what can I say?” said Hasek, shrugging his shoulders.

Hasek, making his 75th NHL playoff start, made 22 saves. Rookie goaltender Dan Cloutier stopped 32 shots for the Canucks, including five in overtime, in just his third playoff game.

“We've been playing well in the past month,” he said. “We're a confident bunch and my game is going well.”

Detroit had taken a 3-2 lead 1:55 into the third period, this time benefiting from a lucky bounce of its own. Murray Baron's errant clearing pass hit Larionov in the arm and deflected past Cloutier, who had gotten tangled up in the crease with a sliding Larionov, who had been checked from behind by Daniel Sedin.

However, Vancouver tied the game at 10:47 when Trevor Linden beat Hasek from inside the right face-off circle following a Red Wings miscue.

“It's frustrating that we lost,” Detroit's Darren McCarty said. “But they got some breaks and we didn't. It's also frustrating that we had a lead in the third period and weren't able to hold it at home.”

Although Vancouver capitalized on its 24-second two-man power-play advantage in the second period, Detroit could not. The Red Wings enjoyed a 5-on-3 situation for 3:03, and although they peppered Cloutier with several quality shots, he kicked them all aside.

“They had that 5-on-3 and scored, and we didn't, and that was the difference in the game,” said Robitaille, scored the game's first goal at 17:51 of the first period.

Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman flipped a pass off the boards to Robitaille at the blue line. Robitaille pulled away from Canucks defenseman Bryan Helmer, then beat Cloutier on the stick side from short range.

“You can't teach that kind of pass,” Robitaille said. “Steve saw me in the middle and it was a smart play. He kind of just let it bounce. It was lucky for me, it bounced over the defense's stick. I got on the breakaway and just didn't want to miss.”

Detroit, which was stunned by the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the first round last season, will have to turn things around quickly to avoid a similar fate this year. Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is tomorrow night.

“The next game is certainly a big, big game for us,” Robitaille said.



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