DETROIT — In his younger, more carefree days--maybe two years ago--Red Wing forward Brendan Shanahan was known to embellish a tale or two. He would return from summer vacation claiming he had been an extra in the movie "Forrest Gump" or that he played for the Irish national soccer team, fibs that found their way into the stories of unsuspecting reporters and amused him no end.
Older, wiser and perhaps hardened by a season in which he was the subject of trade rumors when the Red Wings struggled, Shanahan no longer tells tall tales. He certainly had no need to lie about his performance in Detroit's 5-1 rout of the Mighty Ducks Friday in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, because the truth was better than any fiction Shanahan might have invented.
Shanahan was a forceful presence before the game was a minute old, setting the tone for a superb first period for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. Held to one assist in Detroit's series-opening victory, where his chief distinction was accidentally kicking Duck goaltender Guy Hebert in the head and knocking Hebert out of the game, Shanahan on Friday scored the Red Wings' first two goals and set up Tomas Holmstrom for the third.
It was a powerful performance by a prototypical power forward, and it again showed the extent of the Red Wings' skill and versatility. Shanahan played the right side with Holmstrom and Steve Yzerman in the first game but played with Sergei Fedorov and Yzerman Friday; despite the change, none of the three missed a beat. Fedorov added an intriguing element of speed and used his remarkable defensive skills on the left side to stymie Duck right wing Teemu Selanne for most of the game, besides creating turnovers that the Red Wings transformed into offensive chances.
"I was the recipient of some very nice passes," Shanahan said, deflecting praise for his feats. "Everything has been going well the first two games.
"This is a tough game to play. Sometimes, in a game like this, your intensity goes down and you start cheating and poaching, but our goal was to play solid in the second and third, and we did that."
They never relaxed because they are champions, and they have learned that a moment's letup can lead to summer of regret.
"Guys were going down to block shots and help each other defensively, and that's a good sign," said Shanahan, who led the Red Wings this season with 31 goals.
The Ducks are aware of Shanahan's talents but seem unable to stop him. His 6-3, 215-pound build allows him to establish position around the crease and puts considerable impetus behind his nasty wrist shot.
"With his size, he's tough to defend," Hebert said of Shanahan before Friday's game. "You have to get a body on him early. If you wait until he's moving to the net, it's too late. He's going to kill you."
Hebert knows that only too well.
In the second game of their second-round playoff series two years ago, Hebert pulled a groin muscle reaching to stop a shot by Shanahan in the third period and had to leave a game that was won by Detroit in triple overtime. Shanahan had set up Martin Lapointe for the decisive overtime goal in Game 1 of that series, and Shanahan ended the Red Wings' sweep by scoring in the second overtime at Anaheim.
This season, Shanahan was credited with the decisive goal in a 3-2 Detroit victory at the Pond Nov. 8 while sitting in the crease after a shot by Igor Larionov deflected off his leg. His flailing fall and kick at Hebert's head continued his Duck-killing pattern, as did his fine effort Friday.
Not that he has a grudge against the Ducks or Hebert. He and Hebert were teammates in St. Louis in 1992-93, and they got along well.
"Guy's a great goalie," Shanahan said. "We used to kid around after practice in St. Louis. We kind of used to have a little thing going because we'd both stay out there so long. He wasn't playing much because Cujo [Curtis Joseph] was playing most of the games, and it was fun for both of us."
Being beaten by Shanahan Friday, however, was no barrel of laughs for Hebert, who uncharacteristically left Joe Louis Arena without speaking to reporters. There wasn't much he could have said, anyway.
Shanahan's first goal was the product of good work by Fedorov, who came around from behind the net and took a back-hander that Hebert stopped with his left pad. Shanahan had only to poke in the rebound.
"Sergei did a great job," Shanahan said. "He battled behind the net, and the guy back there lost his stick and Sergei got the puck to me."
Shanahan's second goal, during a Detroit power play, was a goal-scorer's goal: a right-handed shooter, Shanahan ripped a shot from the left wing past Hebert, who might have been screened by defenseman Pavel Trnka. "You feel when you get all of it," Shanahan said.
He felt sheepish accepting compliments for setting up Holmstrom's goal after a dash up the right side, a couple of deft fakes and a feint that turned Duck defenseman Ruslan Salei inside out. "With each deke, I was thinking, 'I don't have another one left,' " Shanahan said. "It was pretty at the end, but I lost the puck. It wasn't a pass, it was a lost puck."
His luck has been so good, Duck center Matt Cullen put the puck on Holmstrom's stick for the goal that broke the Ducks' spirit. "That's where experience comes in," Shanahan said. "We didn't stop playing our game. We didn't start dumping and chipping the puck into the zone. We kept making good passes."
And that's no lie.