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Red Wings a Step Away From Title

Stanley Cup finals: Hasek gets his sixth shutout of playoffs, and smothering defense doesn't give Carolina an opening in Detroit's 3-0 win in Game 4.


RALEIGH, N.C. — With a nasty cut on his lip and several body bruises in need of ice packs, former King Luc Robitaille walked out of the Detroit Red Wings' dressing room Monday night with a huge smile on his face.

It may not be that unusual to see Robitaille smiling, but his face had a look it had never had. Being one victory away from your first Stanley Cup championship can do that for a veteran hockey player.

"The next two days are going to be fun," said Robitaille after the Red Wings defeated Carolina, 3-0, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals in front of a capacity crowd of 18,986 at Entertainment and Sports Arena. "I have been getting calls from a ton of friends wishing me luck. I realize that we still have another win to go, but it's a good feeling to know that we're so close."

Brett Hull scored in the second period for his 10th goal of this year's playoffs and 100th of his career.

Then, veterans Igor Larionov and Brendan Shanahan added third-period scores for Detroit, which swept both games at Carolina to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

After 16 years in the NHL, including 12 in Los Angeles, Robitaille is one victory from achieving his lifetime goal of getting his name on the Stanley Cup, and he doesn't care that he has been held without a goal in the finals.

"That's why I came to Detroit," said Robitaille, who picked up an assist Monday but has only four goals and nine points in 22 playoff games with the Red Wings, the team he signed with as a free agent last summer.

"There is so much talent in our locker room that everyone is about playing the team game. They don't need me to score every night because everyone contributes."

That was the case Monday as the Red Wings played their best defense of the series, two days after winning a five-hour, triple-overtime game, 3-2, on a goal by Larionov in the third-longest game in Stanley Cup finals history.

"[Detroit's defense] makes excellent outlet plays, they move that puck so well from their back end," Carolina Coach Paul Maurice said. "They play a really good five-man defensive game. [Their defense] is so overlooked because it's far more fun for everybody to look at the goals that are scored and the people that put the puck in the net."

Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek frustrated the Hurricanes all night, making 17 saves to record his sixth shutout of the playoffs. The Red Wings are 11-1 in their last 12 Stanley Cup finals games.

After a scoreless first period, Hull joined Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri as the only players to score at least 100 playoff goals when he beat Carolina goaltender Arturs Irbe 6:32 into the second.

Detroit forward Boyd Devereaux made the play to set up the goal when he carried the puck into the Hurricanes' zone and then found Hull by the left circle. From there, Hull knew what to do as he beat Irbe with a one-timer.

Early in the third period, the Red Wings scored when defenseman Jiri Fischer faked a shot from the blue line and passed to a wide-open Larionov, who recorded his fifth goal of the playoffs at 3:43.

With 5:17 remaining, Shanahan scored his first goal of this year's Stanley Cup finals off an assist from Sergei Fedorov.

Carolina had a couple of great chances to score on Hasek, but the Detroit goalie either made the save or the Hurricanes hit a post.

In the first period, Carolina forward Erik Cole had a breakaway down the left wing, but Hasek skated at least 12 feet away from his net to swat the puck with his stick before Cole could get off a shot.

In the second period, Carolina's Jeff O'Neill made a perfect setup pass to captain Ron Francis outside the crease, but the Hurricane captain's shot hit the left post.

Detroit, which improved to 10-0 when leading after two periods in the playoffs, limited the Hurricanes to four shots in the third period.

Even though Carolina is one game from being eliminated, the Red Wings are not counting them out when the teams meet for Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday.

"We know that it's not over," Detroit forward Kris Draper said. "That team doesn't have any quit.... They are going to do everything they can to force a Game 6 back here in Carolina.

"We know the fourth one is the toughest one to win."

Irbe played well on Monday but not good enough on a night when the Hurricanes' offense was shut down by the Red Wings.

"We needed to be more aggressive on the offensive end and get more pucks to the net," Cole said. "The players for Detroit have done a good job of taking away the shooting range. It's where one guy kind of sits back and takes away the lanes and the other really pressures you up high. Their defensemen have made the adjustments, and I think they are really doing a good job."

Good enough to be one victory away from the franchise's 10th Stanley Cup title.



*--* Dominating


Goaltender Dominik Hasek has steadily improved during the playoffs and has the Red Wings one win from the Stanley Cup. A look at his playoff numbers:

*--* Opponent GAA SV% W-L Vancouver 2.41 897 4-2 St. Louis 2.09 922 4-1 Colorado 1.78 923 4-3 Carolina 1.22 942 3-1


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