Monday, April 29
Updated: June 14, 1:42 AM ET
Irony takes back seat to Shanahan's Cup winner
By Wayne Drehs
DETROIT -- He played for the Hartford Whalers.
Only for two seasons, mind you, but he still played for the Hartford Whalers. He was their captain.
So midway through the second period Thursday night, when Brendan Shanahan laced a quick slap shot past a lunging Arturs Irbe that gave the Detroit Red Wings a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead, the irony was obnoxiously thick.
"I guess it is a little ironic," Shanahan admitted. "But let me tell you -- I was just happy to do it, no matter who it was against."
As if that wasn't enough, as if scoring what turned out to be the game-winning goal against his former franchise -- the team that traded him to Detroit, now the Carolina Hurricanes -- wasn't enough, Shanahan tacked on an empty-netter at 19:15 of the third period, which sent he, his teammates and Joe Louis Arena into a complete frenzy.
After the goal, Shanahan sped into the leaping arms of teammate Steve Yzerman, sending the duo crashing to the ice. Yzerman came up bloody after the collision and may even have broken his nose. Yet he had a smile from ear to ear. It was the happiest broken nose this building has ever seen.
"Yeah, I asked him on the next faceoff why he had blood on his sweater," Shanahan said. "I said, 'Did you get hit with a high stick or a cross-check or something? And he goes, 'No. I think you broke it when we fell on the ice after you scored your goal.' I was like, 'Oops.'"
Though it was the empty-netter that resulted in the biggest on-ice, in-game celebration, it was Shanahan's first goal, in the second period, that all but put the game away.
While on the power play, Shanahan was jostling for position with Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley when he pushed off the defender, sprung free and was on the receiving end of a beautiful pass from Sergei Fedorov.
Shanahan took the pass and one-timed a rocket past Irbe.
"Our power play had been struggling," Shanahan said. "But Sergei gave me a great pass, it was the perfect setup. We deserved the payoff."
Afterwards, Shanahan raised both his arms in the air and screamed out loud. He knew. His teammates knew. Everyone knew. For all intents and purposes, the game was done.
"It took a lot of the pressure off," Shanahan said. "We knew they weren't going to quit. But a two-goal lead is a nice cushion and we have been pretty good this year at keeping those types of leads. So I knew that goal set us in pretty good shape."
For Shanahan, the pair of goals couldn't have been sweeter. The forward failed to score in the first three games of the series, even admitting after Game 3 that he had lost his confidence. Not to mention, he had found himself in the doghouse of coach Scotty Bowman.
"All through the playoffs, I found myself hitting the post or the net or just missing the goal all together," Shanahan said. "Sergei kept telling me to keep plugging away and it would bounce back. Boy did it ever."
In winning the Cup, Shanahan joins Yzerman and former Islander Ken Morrow as the only players to win the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medals in the same season. Morrow was a member of the "Miracle on Ice" squad in 1980, while Shanahan and Yzerman led Team Canada in Salt Lake in February.
For Shanahan, things will only get better. The 33-year-old learned at the beginning of the playoffs that his wife Catherine is pregnant with twins.
"It's been a fantastic year, personally, professionally, everything," Shanahan said. "I could never imagine for anything more."
Not to mention the culminating moment came against his former team.
"Yeah," he said, "that too."
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com.