Fresh off of the first conference title in franchise history, the 2001-2002 Carolina Hurricanes entered Detroit for the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final.
Their reward for winning the East? A date with the Detroit Red Wings’ roster littered with nine future Hockey Hall of Famers and coached by Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman.
The Red Wings were heavy favorites and opened the scoring in Game 1 on a power play. A Steve Yzerman point shot would rebound out to Sergei Fedorov who buries it into a yawning cage.
Hurricane netminder Arturs Irbe is knocked out of position by a Red Wing, but because the contact was initiated by defenseman Aaron Ward, there is no goaltender interference ruling.
Detroit would carry the lead until the second period, when the Hurricanes would go to the power play themselves and strike on a two man advantage.
Sean Hill blows an absolute laser over the glove hand of Dominik Hasek off a great pass right in his wheelhouse from Sami Kapenen.
Minutes later though the Hurricanes would turn the puck over off of a won defensive zone faceoff and Darren McCarty would find Kirk Maltby in the high slot to reclaim the Detroit lead.
But with under a minute to play in the second period Ward would make a beautiful stretch pass, finding Jeff O’Neill behind the Detroit defense for a breakaway that would tie the game.
Detroit’s Brendan Shanahan looked to take away Ward’s ability to continue to advance the puck up the boards, but his outside-in forecheck opened the middle lane for the stretch pass to O’Neill.
The third period would be played without any scoring and the series opener would head to overtime. Less than a minute in Bret Hedican hard rims a dump in past Hasek. Detroit struggles to corral the puck and after a scramble in front Ron Francis would give Carolina the victory.
Hedican’s dump in is crucial, as if it was soft enough for Hasek to settle behind the net, Detroit is likely able to execute a clean breakout.
Instead Red Wings defenseman Fredrik Olausson can’t carry the puck past O’Neill, who then centers the puck twice before finding the winner.
O’Neill, known more as a goal scorer than playmaker, makes two beautiful passes to set the play up, the first one while falling down behind the net.
After falling, O’Neill quickly gets right back to his feet to find Francis.
Because the Red Wings all reacted to the initial pass that looked to find Kapanen, Francis is left relatively unattended to on top of the crease. He feels back pressure coming and one touches the puck past Hasek.
Hasek attempts to break the pass up with a poke check, but the extension of his blocker side arm actually gives Francis far more net to shoot at once the excellent pass from O’Neill finds its way through.
The loaded Red Wings would respond and win the next four contests to capture the Cup, but the Game 1 upset proved that the Hurricanes belonged on the big stage. After the Francis goal, legendary CBC broadcaster Bob Cole summed it up saying, “Carolina has come in here and stunned this crowd, stunned everybody with the first win in the best-of-seven. These Hurricanes are proving to be something else.’