Hockeytown was relishing in reliving the memories of the day of sweet, ice-cold revenge 25 years ago to the day in Joe Louis Arena against Claude Lemieux and the Colorado Avalanche… until the Tampa Bay Lightning crashed the party, by stealing one from Alex Nedeljkovic and the Wings in OT, 2-1.
Well, we can talk about today’s game first.
A decent game for Detroit. 5 v 5, they played well. For most of the game, Nedeljkovic was a wall with 34 saves and the defense was strong, with great play from one of the newcomers, Jake Walman laying out for a couple goal saving blocks.
The other newly acquired Red Wing, Oskar Sundqvist put the team up 1-0 on a shot that trickled through Brian Elliott. But then the Tampa Bay powerplay got a goal with less than 5 minutes left in regulation from Stamkos. Bertuzzi took a penalty in overtime, and the Lightning finished things off. 2-1 bad guys.
The Brawl – March 26, 1997
Every Red Wing fan knows this game. Today, being the 25th anniversary of the infamous game between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche, much of the pregame and intermission parts of the broadcast focused on this.
So, common knowledge for either fanbase, but some backstory:
The Wings and Avs met in the 1996 Western Conference Final, for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Colorado was up 3 games to 2. In the first period, Kris Draper played a puck while staking back toward the boards near the teams’ bench and was hit late from behind by Claude Lemieux. Draper ended up going face-first into the top of the boards. Not sure how to else to say, it broke Draper’s face. (broken jaw, nose, cheekbone). Lemieux was obviously shown the gate, game misconduct. Colorado would complete the series win that night and move on to win the Stanley Cup, sweeping the Panthers.
Into the next season, the Avalanche’s domination of Detroit continued until the end of March when they met at Joe Louis Arena. It started really in the most unlikely spots with Igor Larionov getting checked by Peter Forsberg , Larionov reacts accordingly. Crowds converge. Darren McCarty, Detroit folk hero that he is, slips away, and gets ahold of Claude Lemieux. In McCarty’s own words, “It wasn’t a sucker-punch, it was a cold-cock. He knew it was coming.” Lemieux folded up like an accordion; or “turtled” as it came to known. People started pairing off. Patrick Roy came in charging from his net, and was met by a leaping Brendan Shanahan. Mike Vernon, the Detroit tendy, came in and squared off with Roy and it was pandemonium… Adam Foote and Shanny ended up meeting up at the beginning of the next period.
The Wings came back in this game and in true being rewarded by the hockey gods fashion, Darren McCarty scored the game winning goal in overtime.
This moment, this game, many argue and I didn’t really realize it until it was pointed out, really started the Detroit Red Wings’ run of winning their 4 Stanley Cups in 11 years, could be called a dynasty. Yes, in the 1994-1995 season, the Wings made the Cup Finals against the Devils and fell short, a series that also featured Claude Lemieux. Yes, in the 1995-1996 season, the Wings won the President’s Trophy again with the second most season points… ever (at the time) but they fell short.
After the March 26, 1997 brawl, the Detroit Red Wings continued on to win the Stanley Cup, sweeping Olie the Goalie and the Washington Capitals. And the rest is history…
….Colorado was eliminated in the first round by Edmonton that year, if we’re keeping score.
Speaking of Detroit, history and Stanley Cups, the Wings meet the Penguins tomorrow afternoon. Let’s Go!