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On This Date in Sports June 16, 1998: Two for Detroit

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup for the second straight season, completing a four-game sweep of the Washington Capitals with a 4-1 win at the MCI Center. Captain Steve Yzerman win the Conn Smythe as Playoff MVP, with 24 points in the postseason. The celebration is bittersweet as Vladimir Konstantinov, who was critically injured a year earlier, was handed the cup in his wheelchair.

The Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1997, ending a 42-year drought by sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers. A week after winning the Stanley Cup following a team party, Vladimir Konstantinov and masseur Sergei Mnatskanov suffered life-threatening injuries when the limo they were riding in crashed. The Limo Driver was later found guilty of driving while intoxicated. Konstantinov was left wheelchair-bound and severely brain-damaged after several weeks in a coma.

After the Stanley Cup Celebration was ruined by tragedy, the Red Wings had to deal with the holdout of Sergei Fedorov. Despite Fedorov playing in just 21 games, the Red Wings, coached by Scotty Bowman, had a solid season, 44-23-15, finishing second in the Central Division. In the playoffs, the Red Wings reached the Western Conference Finals for the fourth straight year, beating the Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues in six games. The Red Wings also need six games to knock off the President Trophy Champion Dallas Stars, winning in six games.

In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals opened a brand-new arena in downtown Washington after 24 years in suburban Landover, Maryland. Coached by Ron Wilson, the Capitals finished fourth overall in the East, with a record of 40-30-12. In the playoff, the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins in six games. In the second round, the Capitals beat the Ottawa Senators in five games, getting a break when Ottawa upset the top-seeded New Jersey Devils in the opening round. In the Eastern Conference Finals, for the second time, the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres in six games to reach the Stanley Cup Finals as Joe Juneau had a big overtime game-winner.

The Washington Capitals riding the back of Olaf Kolzig, the hot goalie, came into the Stanley Cup Finals as a big underdog as the Detroit Red Wings, looking for their second straight Stanley Cup, were playing their best hockey of the season. Kolzig had a strong opener at Joe Louis Arena, stopping 29 of 31 shots, but the Capitals could not get any offense going as Detroit won 2-1. Game 2 was the one that got away from Washington as they held a 4-2 lead in the third period. However, the Red Wings rallied to tie the game on goals by Martin Lapointe and Doug Brown. The Red Wings would win in overtime 5-4 on a goal by Kris Draper, as Olaf Kolzig was under assault all game facing 60 shots. 

As the series shifted to the MCI Center, the Red Wings got a goal by Tomas Holmstrom 35 seconds into the game. Olaf Kolzig would settle down and keep the Capitals in the game as Brian Bellows evened the score into the third period. The Red Wings, though, got the game-winner with under five minutes left. The Red Wings would use special teams, scoring three power-play goals, including a pair from Doug Brown, as Brian Bellows managed the only score for Washington. The 4-1 final gave the Red Wings their second straight Stanley Cup, both of which were won with four-game sweeps.

The Red Wings all season wore a special patch for Vladimir Konstantinov and masseur Sergei Mnatskanov. Despite not playing a game all season, the Red Wings would put Konstantinov’s name on the Stanley Cup. As the Red Wings celebrated on the ice in Washington, Vladimir Konstantinov was taken down to the ice a had the cup placed in his lap with his teammates wheeling him around the ice.