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At End, Red Wings in Control

Game 3: Detroit's Vernon loses cool early, but he and teammates calm down enough to take 3-0 lead in series.

May 07, 1997|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — In that crazy, penalty-filled first period, Detroit Coach Scotty Bowman beamed himself up on the bench, practically on top of the dasherboards, to get a better view of those noted fighters, Slava Fetisov and Paul Kariya.

Even though no one appeared to be supporting Bowman, somehow he never appeared to be in danger of falling on the ice, of losing it.

His team?

That was another story.

His poised team, the hallmark of precision and grit, was dangerously teetering in the opening 20 minutes against the Mighty Ducks at the Pond in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday. The Ducks, it seemed, were managing to unsettle the Red Wings before Detroit prevailed, 5-3.

Most symbolic of this odd development was goaltender Mike Vernon, who was close to crossing the thin blue line with his first-period behavior. He lost his temper after taking a high-sticking penalty at 10:36, and then hit referee Bill McCreary with a blue streak of words, most of them unprintable. McCreary replied by handing Vernon a 10-minute misconduct. And then Bowman had a few words of his own for his hot goalie.

"I told him, what's happened has happened, not to be bothering the referee anymore," Bowman said. "I said that you can't change what has happened. I asked him if he was OK, and he said, 'Sure.'

"He said he didn't do a lot against Kariya to get the [high-sticking] penalty."

For those watching at home, it was pretty clear what Vernon said to McCreary, at least some of what he said.

"There's a few magic words," right wing Darren McCarty said. "We've all probably said them. He's a feisty guy, he's a leader in this dressing room and he was just showing his dissatisfaction. Vernie's just trying to speak his mind. When you are out in a playoff game there is a lot of emotion. We're just kids at heart, we just want to win." There was no doubt on the bench that a veteran like Vernon would have almost no problem regaining his composure.

"If you know Mike Vernon at all, he's just as cool as they come," McCarty said. "Nothing really rattles him. That's about as hot as he'll get." Vernon came around, as did the rest of the Red Wings, who took a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven-game series. So, how did Bowman pull his team off the edge?

"I think we played a lot better after we fell behind because we were upset we had got through the first period down," Bowman said.

There was some help from the Ducks themselves. The Ducks were like wind-up toys, full of energy at the beginning but seemed to lose power by the minute. They had only six shots on goal in the second period and six more in the third.

Still, Bowman was worried about Kariya and Teemu Selanne even though they went more than a period an a half without a shot on goal.

"We had to put some offense [out there] because we were down," Bowman said. "Obviously they are game-breakers. They even had a chance late in the third when Selanne got behind the 'D.' You know, if they get shots, they are going to score. We had to keep the puck away from them."

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