Road to Stanleytown: Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings take high road — and Game 3 vs. Blues

Detroit Free Press
Gene Myers |  Special to Detroit Free Press

In the spring of 1997 — a quarter-century ago — the Detroit Red Wings embarked on their quest to end a 42-year Stanley Cup drought.

The Free Press has commemorated that historic quest with a new book: “Stanleytown: The Inside Story of How the Stanley Cup Returned to the Motor City After 41 Frustrating Seasons.”

DAY 1: Reliving 1997 road to Stanleytown: Red Wings begin quest to end 42-year Cup drought

DAY 2: Road to Stanleytown: Scotty Bowman finally makes the Sergei Fedorov switch Red Wings need

DAY 3: Road to Stanleytown: How the Detroit Red Wings finally solved Fuhr to take Game 2

DAY 4: Road to Stanleytown: Detroit Red Wings, Shanahan try to break St. Louis hearts

Day 5: April 20, 1997

The backstory: With their first-round series tied at a game apiece, the Red Wings and Blues squared off in a Sunday matinee on Fox. For the third straight game, there was a beeline to the penalty box, but for the first time, the Wings made the Blues pay a steep price for their lion’s share of infractions.

Game 3: The Blues threw everything at captain Steve Yzerman — elbows, forearms, slashes — as they ran him early and ran him late. He never retaliated. “You just can’t take penalties,” he said afterward. His reward came late in the second period when, on a power play, he deflected Nicklas Lidstrom’s blast for the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory. In the game’s third minute, Kris Draper’s goal marked the first time the Wings opened the scoring in the series.

Late in the period, though, Brett Hull tied it on a 50-foot one-timer when Lidstrom committed a rare blunder, trying to clear the puck up the middle instead of safely going around the boards. Between periods, Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan addressed their teammates. “They said, ‘Let’s turn the other cheek, boys.’ And we did,” associate coach Barry Smith said. In the first minute of the second period, Shanahan scored during a goalmouth scramble on a power play, snapping the team’s 0-for-17 playoff power outage (0-for-35 going back to the regular season).

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“It was definitely a relief to get one,” said Larry Murphy, who had the first assist. “A relief and a surprise.” The Blues gave up nine power plays on 10 penalties and sat in the box for 16:32. They played shorthanded for 14:32 of the first two periods — or nearly 37% of the time. Yzerman’s game-winner came after rookie Jim Campbell was penalized for a cross-check away from the play. Earlier, Geoff Courtnall earned a five-minute penalty and game misconduct for head butting Kirk Maltby across his plastic visor. “You can’t give them all the penalties in the world,” said Blues defenseman Al MacInnis. “We showed a lack of discipline,” said Blues coach Joel Quenneville.

Worth noting: Once again, Draper’s line with Maltby and Joe Kocur turned heads with its tenacious play and got under the Blues’ skins, especially Courtnall’s. Keith Gave wrote in the Free Press: “The Nasty Brothers? The Legion of Boom? The Yoko Unit? As in: Ono, not those guys again. … Call it what you will … one look at the three told the saga of another hard-fought victory: Draper wore eight new stitches cross the bridge of his nose, Kocur needed a dressing on a bloody knuckle and Maltby wore a smile. … Call them what you will — Nasty Brothers has a nice ring to it, and imagine the marketing possibilities — but Maltby, Draper and Kocur are providing a kind of work ethic that has been missing in recent playoff runs.” … Despite their between-periods comments, Yzerman picked up a tripping penalty early in second period and Shanahan a hooking penalty midway through the third. … Free Press headline: Yzerman zings the Blues.

Off the ice: Shanahan, a fan favorite for four seasons with the Blues and in the two seasons since his departure, was serenaded by boos at the Kiel Center, loudest after his goal. “My focus is on the ice,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Famous last words: “The best leadership was Steve Yzerman,” Shanahan said. “He took a couple of muggings early and there were no calls. He didn’t complain to the referee. He just skated back to the bench. Then the calls were made after that.”

Relive the glory: The Free Press has crafted a 208-page, full-color, hardcover collector’s book with fresh insights and dynamic storytelling about the 1996-97 Wings. It’s called “Stanleytown 25 Years Later: The Inside Story on How the Stanley Cup Returned to the Motor City after 41 Frustrating Seasons.” It’s only $29.95 and it’s available at RedWings.PictorialBook.com. (It’ll make a great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift for the Wings fanatic in your life!) Personalized copies available via myersgene@comcast.net.

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