RALEIGH, N.C. -- Dominik Hasek is one victory away from no longer being the best goaltender in NHL history without a Stanley Cup championship.
Hasek, acquired for the sole purpose of leading the NHL's oldest and most talented team to a championship, put on a spectacular show for his record sixth shutout of the playoffs to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday night.
The Red Wings opened a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and can win their third Stanley Cup in six years by winning Game 5 on home ice Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena, where they last won the cup in 1997. They won in 1998 by finishing a four-game sweep in Washington.
For the second straight game, the Red Wings' biggest goals came from Brett Hull and Igor Larionov, the seemingly ageless stars who combined for all three scores in Detroit's momentum-shifting, three-overtime 3-2 victory in Game 3 on Saturday night.
"We've been slow starting in some of the series. It usually takes us a couple of games to get going," said Brendan Shanahan, who got only his second goal in 11 games to finish the scoring. "But it seems as the series goes on, individually and collectively, we seem to get stronger and stronger."
Hull, 37, got the game's first goal with a shot off the post in the second period. Larionov - at 41 the oldest player in the NHL - won the third-longest game in finals history in the third overtime Saturday and made it 2-0 in Game 4 by scoring early in the third period - his third goal in two games.
"The break we got was scoring the first goal," Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman said. "The first goal in a game like this is big. ... But we've been in this position before (one game away from winning the cup), and we've got to stay away from all the hoopla.
"I feel we have enough experienced guys who have been in this position and can help the ones who haven't been in this position."
Of course, maybe Hull owes Hasek a Cup, and is paying him back with his two big goals. Hull's Dallas Stars denied Hasek's Buffalo Sabres the cup by winning the finals in 1999 on Hull's disputed goal in the third overtime of Game 6 in Buffalo.
The way Hasek was playing, though, one goal would have been enough. Arguably the best goalie in NHL history without a Stanley Cup ring, the 37-year-old Hasek did it all in his best game of the finals, often wandering far from the net to stop shots and begin up-ice rushes while making 17 saves in his first shutout of the series.
Hasek even started the rush that led to Hull's goal by leaving the net to make an up-the-ice feed. He also extended his scoreless streak in the series to 127 minutes, 13 seconds, one that began in the third period of Game 3.
Hasek's most brilliant play was a save-or-else stop on Erik Cole to keep the game scoreless late in the first period.
Cole, who is scoreless in 10 games, got loose by skating around defenseman Chris Chelios, only to be surprised when Hasek became his own defenseman by coming out to the top of the right circle to poke the puck away.
With both teams showing some fatigue from Saturday night, Hull opened the scoring.
Working a 3-on-2 break started by Hasek's breakout pass, Hull skated down the left wing and took Boyd Devereaux's cross-ice pass to one-time a shot off the left goal post and into the net before goalie Arturs Irbe could react at 6:32.
Irbe played well, stopping 24 shots, but he almost needed to be perfect to match Hasek.
Hull's league-leading 10th goal of the playoffs came on the Red Wings' first shot of the period and made him the fourth player in the NHL history with 100 career playoff goals. Hull now trails Wayne Gretzky (122), Mark Messier (109) and Jari Kurri (106) in career playoff goals.
After scoring, Hull looked up and gave a little wink, as if to say, "Had it all the way."
Carolina has only 13 goals in eight games and six in the first four games of the series. But the Hurricanes had a great opportunity to tie the game on a power play midway through the period.
Bret Hedican's rebound deflected to Jeff O'Neill, who immediately directed it across the crease to Ron Francis before Hasek could react, leaving the right side of the net open.
But Francis' one-timer deflected off the left post and bounced harmlessly into the crease - even though the goal horn momentarily sounded - and a surprised and very much relieved Hasek covered it up.
Francis looked up at the scoreboard and watched the replay, almost not believing that he missed.
The loss was the Hurricanes' fourth in their last five home playoff games, while Detroit improved to 8-2 on road.
Notes: Detroit has allowed only one power-play goal in 35 chances over its last eight games. ... Detroit is 21-4-0-1 against the Eastern Conference this season. ... Hull's game-winning goal was his 23rd in the playoffs, one short of Gretzky's record 24. ... Detroit coach Scotty Bowman won his record 35th career playoff finals game, one more than former Montreal coach Toe Blake. ... Detroit is 11-2 when scoring the first goal and 9-0 when leading after two periods. ... Carolina forward Tommy Westlund left the ice with blood pouring from his mouth during the third period after being whacked in the face by Jiri Fischer's stick, but no penalty was called. ... The only team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in finals was Toronto in 1942, which was down 3-0 and rallied to beat Detroit.
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