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  Less Than Best Good Enough, This Time
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 10, 1998; Page C10

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DETROIT, June 9 — Like his teammates, Larry Murphy didn't play his best game tonight in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. Goaltender Chris Osgood made the Detroit Red Wings' early lead stand up, though, and they held on for a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals at Joe Louis Arena.

"We were fortunate to hang on," said Murphy, who played for the Capitals from 1983 through 1988. "They had a lot of good scoring opportunities. . . . [Osgood] made some great saves. They got more opportunities than we hoped to give them — their shot total was low (17 for the game), but they got more scoring chances than we wanted."

Murphy playing against one of his former teams did not make the game more meaningful.

"It's been 10 years," Murphy said. "They have different uniforms, new management, a new coach. And I've had quite a few teams (Detroit, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Toronto before returning to Detroit last season) between then and now."

Murphy, with two goals and 11 assists, is the second-highest scoring defenseman in the playoffs and a major reason for the Red Wings' success as they try to defend their Stanley Cup championship. He has picked his spots well, knowing when to join the rush and when to hang back and play things safe.

Tonight, after the Red Wings took a 2-0 lead late in the first period, Murphy hung back on defense, not wanting to give the Capitals many chances. Murphy and his defensive partner, Nicklas Lidstrom (the leading scorer among defenseman with six goals and 12 assists) were matched up against the Capitals' top lines throughout the game, another reason they stayed back.

But when it was time to go on offense, Murphy and Lidstrom also came through. It was Lidstrom's slap shot from the left point that gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead with 3 minutes 42 seconds left in the first period. "Guys like that [who can join the offensive play] . . . this kind of game, you need those defensemen," Red Wings Coach Scotty Bowman said.

Still, the Red Wings allowed Washington too many chances to be satisfied with their performance.. "I thought the first period, both teams were getting the feeling — out process out of the way," Murphy said. "We had a couple opportunities and capitalized, but as the game went on, their confidence built and they shook off the rust, they hadn't played in a while. We were lucky to get two in the first period because after that, they had better chances than we did."

Still, Osgood — who has been the hero and the goat already in the playoffs with two shutouts and three goals allowed from beyond the blue line — was stellar in goal tonight. He made 16 saves, including seven in the third period when the Capitals desperately tried to tie the game. His pad save on Richard Zednik's deflection early in the third period likely was his best of the game.

"This was a big game for him, his first game of the finals," Bowman said. "What can you say? He had two shutout periods. I don't think we need to discuss Chris too much more. I think his record speaks for itself." One other player whose playoff record isn't too shabby is right wing Joe Kocur. Known more for his fist work than his stickwork, Kocur scored the game's first goal, his fourth of the playoffs, with 5:56 left in the first period.

Kocur, who hadn't dressed in the final three games of the Western Conference finals against Dallas, drove to the net and deflected in a backhand pass from Doug Brown. A video judge review the play to determine if Kocur had been in the crease, but after a brief delay the goal stood.

"Joey comes up with the big goals," Bowman said. Said Kocur: "I didn't know. It was really close. [Brendan Shanahan] asked me if I was in."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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