by | Apr 30, 1987 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

The fans were standing on their feet, screaming, chanting, their hearts about to pop up through their throats, because the scoreboard was beautiful, the scoreboard was victory, it read 3-0, no time left, and the Red Wings were skating off the ice with smiles on their faces and a plane to catch.

Still alive? Still alive.


“AAAAAAHHHH!” answered the crowd.

Game Seven? Did he say Game Seven? Well, all right. Allow him a moment’s fantasy. For this was a night when it all could have ended, right here in Game 5 this magical hockey season could have been bagged for good, and instead the Wings skated to a magnificent win, their best of this series. They shut out the Maple Leafs and forced a return to Toronto in this best-of- seven second-round playoff. No dreams would die tonight. Not here. Not in Detroit.

“You want to win this thing?” the Wings seemed to say to the Leafs. “Do it under your flag. Do it in your building.” Whack, whack, whack — three goals for, no goals against. Pack the bags. Get out the passports.

“How much did facing elimination affect your play tonight?” someone asked Lee Norwood, who scored Detroit’s first goal 6:03 into the first period.

“A lot,” he said, “You hate that situation, you hate to be eliminated. You have to. You have to hate to lose to win a game like this.”

Still alive? Still alive. There have been moments

Perhaps that was it. Hate to lose. Enough to win. The Wings are not the most talented team in hockey, they don’t have the best record in hockey. They didn’t even finish above .500 in the regular season. But there have been these moments, last night’s game, and Game 3 of this series, and that first game in Chicago Stadium in the opening round, critical games, and they have responded, they have stayed afloat. “I think,” said Steve Yzerman, “we were simply scared to death to lose.”

They avoided such a fate from the very first period Wednesday, when they swarmed the Toronto goal like locust on crop. They were relentless, constantly moving, passing, in, out, back, shot, there, there, always there, scraping up enough ice to build a snow mountain and firing shots at Toronto’s Ken Wregget that smacked of anger, nobody was going to beat them in this building, and so when the weary puck tried to escape someone in red always brought it back.

Sooner or later this thing had to go in. Sooner or later it did. Norwood found himself left of the goal by about 45 feet, he wound up, he fired, and the puck went past a leaping Mel Bridgman and a screened-out Ken Wregget and
— ooomf! — straight to the promised land.

Detroit 1, Toronto 0.

Still alive? Still alive.

“You know,” said Bridgman. “As bad as that heartbreaking loss was in Game 4
(a 3-2 overtime defeat Monday night in Toronto) we always knew had this game to go. Tonight we didn’t have another game to go. Tomorrow was a question mark. When that happens, you can forget about the money and the fame. At that point, you just become little boys. All you want to do is win.”

They won by never letting up, by taking two breaths for every one by Toronto, by falling on pucks, as Norwood did on a shot by Wendell Clark, a rubber grenade, right in his gut, by getting the best goaltending of the series by Glen Hanlon. A shut-out? A shut-out.

“I just wanted to win the first period,” he said. “Then I just wanted to win the second, then i just wanted to win, period.”

He got all three.

Still alive? Still alive. Pay now and fly later

So this series goes on. And who knows the ending now. The day before, Wings coach Jacques Demers was asked to make a decision on a chartered plane for Wednesday night. If he booked it, the Wings would have to pay no matter if they lost. If he waited for the outcome, the Wings would have to leave on Thursday.

“I booked it,” he said. “I’ve been positive all year long, why change now.”

The plane was waiting at the Windsor airport at midnight, and this morning the Wings are in Canada, thinking about one more game.

What will be, will be. But as the fans filed out of Joe Louis Arena last night, they were basking in the glorious wash of what they knew was undeniable: No dreams would die tonight. Not in this building.

Still alive? Still alive.


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