A second straight Stanley Cup and the making of a dynasty are within sight for the Detroit Red Wings. Yet Sergei Fedorov chose to look to the past on Saturday night.
Minutes earlier, Fedorov's 10th goal of the playoffs with 4:51 to play gave the Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals and a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals.
Fedorov grabbed the game puck after the horn sounded, a souvenir for an old friend. This one would be for either Vlady or Sergei, another memento for a season that the Red Wings have dedicated to their injured friends.
Winning Game 3 on Saturday night was special for all the Red Wings.
Exactly a year ago, they were rushing to the hospital to be with defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergie Mnatsakanov after they suffered head injuries in a limousine accident. It happened just six days after the Red Wings won their first Cup in 42 years.
"I was just thinking about that," Fedorov said. "I was coming back from the golf course on the way to the hospital, I guess it was 6 or 7 p.m. and so I am crying my eyes right now because I got the puck," Fedorov said.
"First I am going to keep it a while and decide what I am going to do," he added. "Just for the appreciation of what Vlady and Sergei did for this team; just show them and maybe one would like to keep it."
While it's not certain who will get the puck, it seems almost certain that the Red Wings are going to keep the Stanley Cup for a second straight year.
Only one team in NHL history has rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the finals to win the Stanley Cup, the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 against Detroit.
"It can't be better than this, waiting for the fourth game," said Tomas Holmstrom, who staked Detroit to an early lead. "It's up to us. It's going to be a battle out there."
This Detroit club can now become the first since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992 to capture consecutive Cups by winning Game 4 of the best-of-7 series here on Tuesday night.
If the Red Wings do that, they will also become the first team to win the NHL title with consecutive sweeps in the finals since the New York Islanders capped a string of four consecutive titles with sweeps in 1982 and 1983.
Coach Scotty Bowman also would tie Toe Blake's record for Stanley Cup titles by a coach with eight.
"It's deflating," Washington forward Craig Berube said. "It's do or die Tuesday. We have to go out and leave everything on the ice. There's nothing left to save it for."
Holmstrom got the other Detroit goal 35 seconds after the opening faceoff. Brian Bellows of the Capitals tied the game at 10:35 of the third period on a power play.
Fedorov's game-winner was magnificent. He took a pass off the sie boards from Doug Brown at center ice and steamed into the Capitals' zone with only defenseman Calle Johansson between him and goaltender Olaf Kolzig.
Fedorov cut inside as he reached the right faceoff circle and then snapped a shot that beat Kolzig over his glove.
"I wasn't screened, the shot was re-directed off Calle's stick," Kolzig said. "That's why he gets paid $12 million."
Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood didn't have to make a tough stop over the final minutes, finishing with 17 saves.
As the Red Wings skated off the ice, the small number of Detroit fans in the MCI Center chanted "Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!"
Wilson, who has inspired the Caps with a couple of great rah-rah speeches in the playoffs, seemed at a loss after the game.
"Detroit is working hard and good teams make their own breaks," Wilson said. "You know, we got breaks in other series where we worked hard. You know Detroit has been persistent and they appear to be on a mission without a doubt."
Dominated most of the game by Detroit but only down a goal since the opening 35 seconds, Washington finally tied the game midway through the third period with Darren McCarty off for tripping.
Adam Oates made the key play going to the net from the left circle. His shot hit someone in the crease and Bellows came in quickly and ripped it past Osgood for his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Getting the first goal seemingly has been one of the keys to the Red Wings' success in the playoffs this year. They are 12-1 when scoring first.
Game 3 was only 35 seconds old when Steve Yzerman broke into the Capitals zone, fought off a back check by Esa Tikkanen and got off a shot while crashing into Kolzig. The puck came out of the pileup and Holmstrom, fighting off a check by Todd Krygier, pushed it into the open net.
Holmstrom, who had 22 points in 57 regular-season games, now has 18 (seven goals, 11 assists) in 21 playoffs contests. He has a goal and three assists in this series.
It was the third straight one-goal loss for the Capitals, who have managed to stay in this series because Kolzig has been outstanding in net.
"Experience has made a huge difference," Yzerman said. "We've been through a lot this season, good and bad. We're enjoying the playoffs. We've stayed level-headed when we've done well. Experience has been so beneficial to our team."
Detroit dominated the first Stanley Cup finals game in the nation's capital, but Kolzig stopped almost everything, making 32 saves, including 12 in the first period as the Red Wings outshot Washington 12-1.
The only other club to have just one shot in a period since 1968 was the Red Wings against New Jersey in 1995.
When Washington finally got going in the second period, Osgood, the supposed weak link in the Red Wings' lineup, was outstanding.
He made a sliding stop on a power-play shot by Bellows in cose, stopped Peter Bondra on a great setup in front by Richard Zednik and then made a snapping glove save on Bondra late in the period.
"We're confident we can win it," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "But we've only won three. Last year versus Philadelphia, the toughest game to win was the fourth game."
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