Carolina Hurricanes

Game 1, 2002 Stanley Cup finals at Detroit

Luke DeCock

Game 1, 2002 Stanley Cup finals at Detroit, 6/4/02. No one gave the underdog Hurricanes much of a chance against the powerful Red Wings, but Ron Francis’ overtime goal shocked the hockey world.
Game 1, 2002 Stanley Cup finals at Detroit, 6/4/02. No one gave the underdog Hurricanes much of a chance against the powerful Red Wings, but Ron Francis’ overtime goal shocked the hockey world.

DETROIT -- The last time Ron Francis was in the Stanley Cup finals, he scored the goal that won his team the Cup.

On Tuesday, he scored the goal that won Game 1 for the Carolina Hurricanes, bringing them closer to the Cup than just about anyone expected them to be.

Francis scored 58 seconds into overtime to give the Canes a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Canes' seventh overtime win of the playoffs.

The Canes now have the second-most overtime wins in playoff history. Only the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, who went 10-1 in OT, have won more.

Twice, the Canes spotted the Red Wings the lead. Twice, they got it back. And they won it in the end, thanks to their captain.

"Especially this point in the season, it's special when it comes to a situation like that where it gives your team a win," Francis said. "Obviously, this is even more special."

Jeff O'Neill stopped a Fredrik Olausson clearing attempt behind the net, stopping the puck with his feet. He tried to feed it to Sami Kapanen, but the puck came skittering back to O'Neill.

He didn't see Hasek dropping to the ice, trying to get his stick in the way of any pass O'Neill might make.

All O'Neill saw was Francis, standing in front of the net, left alone in the crease by Brendan Shanahan.

"When you see a guy standing in front of the net with as many points as Ron Francis has," O'Neill said, "you pretty much have to pass it to him."

O'Neill slid the puck under Hasek's stick, leaving the net wide open for Francis.

He didn't miss.

Whenever there is a goal like this to be scored, it seems Francis manages to get himself in position to score it.

It was Francis who gave the Canes a 1-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils to close out that playoff series, a first-round exorcism that sent the Canes down this road in the first place.

It was Francis who won the Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992, scoring the final goal in a 6-5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks to complete a sweep and secure the second title of his career.

This is the first time he has been back on this stage since then, and his latest huge goal stole the home-ice advantage from the Red Wings in an upset that stunned the hockey world -- if not the Carolina locker room.

"Ron Francis said a few words about it, Rod Brind'Amour did on Saturday, and that was about it," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We knew we were an underdog, but there was no point in making the mountain any bigger than it already is."

Close games are nothing new to the Canes -- 12 of their 19 playoff games have been decided by one goal -- and they were certainly prepared for it Tuesday.

They answered a Detroit power-play goal with a five-on-three goal, then went down again when Kirk Maltby slipped a shot between Erik Cole and Marek Malik to beat goalie Arturs Irbe.

Darren McCarty came within an inch of making it 3-1 when his shot hit the post, and O'Neill hit the crossbar at the other end after intercepting a clearing pass and had an open look at the net.

He got another open look with 50 seconds left in the period, and this time he didn't miss.

Ward sprung O'Neill loose at the blue line, and he skated in alone on Dominik Hasek, who stopped his initial shot but slid backward across the goal line and knocked the puck in to make it 2-2 -- O'Neill's sixth goal of the playoffs on his sixth shot of the night.

The Canes killed off a late Detroit power play -- Cole was called for hooking Pavel Datsyuk with 1:42 to play -- and then scored in overtime 40 seconds after it expired.

"They were the better team tonight," Detroit forward Brendan Shanahan said. "They played like you're supposed to play a Stanley Cup final game, and we didn't."