Tyler Bertuzzi's big night for Detroit Red Wings brings back memory of Sergei Fedorov

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Tyler Bertuzzi’s incredible four-goal game in Thursday night’s Detroit Red Wings opener evoked memories of Sergei Fedorov’s five-goal game during the 1996-97 season. Bertuzzi nearly reached five in the Wings’ 7-6 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena. The 2021-22 season marks the 25th anniversary of that 1996-97 season, in which the Red Wings snapped a Stanley Cup drought of more than four decades. To commemorate the anniversary — for one of the most-beloved championship teams in the history of Detroit sports — the Free Press has crafted a new hardcover book, “Stanleytown 25 Years Later: The Inside Story of How the Stanley Cup Returned to the Motor City after 41 Frustrating Seasons.” “Stanleytown 25 Years Later” costs $39.95 and can be ordered at RedWings.PictorialBook.com. Books are shipping right now. The following excerpt from the book recounts Fedorov’s five-goal night, when he scored all Detroit’s goals and when the Wings rallied for a Christmastime victory in overtime.

Amazing fact No. 1: Sergei Fedorov scored all five goals, including the winner with 2:21 left in overtime, as the Red Wings beat Washington, 5-4, at Joe Louis Arena on the night after Christmas in 1996.

Amazing fact No. 2: Fedorov’s performance did not merit a story on the front page of the Free Press Sports section the next day.

For Fedorov, it was his first five-goal game, second four-goal game and third career hat trick. Only one Wing had done better: Syd Howe with six goals against the Rangers on Feb. 3, 1944. Twenty others had four-goal games.

For the Free Press, Fedorov didn’t make the Sports front because all the stories dealt with Lions coach Wayne Fontes. The headline said it all: “The Buck stops here.” After nine roller-coaster seasons, William Clay Ford Sr. finally fired Fontes. He had survived long enough to become the coach with the most victories and losses in franchise history.

Detroit Red Wings' Sergei Fedorov, right, is embraced by teammate Vladimir Konstantinov after Fedorov scored a goal against the Washington Capitals in the first period at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Dec. 26, 1996. Fedorov scored five goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as Detroit defeated Washington 5-4.


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Detroit Red Wings' Sergei Fedorov, right, is embraced by teammate Vladimir Konstantinov after Fedorov scored a goal against the Washington Capitals in the first period at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Dec. 26, 1996. Fedorov scored five goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as Detroit defeated Washington 5-4. DT108

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At the beginning of the hockey season, Fedorov rarely put the puck in the net. He had one goal in the first 11 games, when he played on a line with Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. But he had been on a tear since the Russian Five of forwards Fedorov, Igor Larionov and Slava Kozlov and defensemen Vladimir Konstantinov and Slava Fetisov, once beset by injuries, had regained their health and were reunited by coach Scotty Bowman.

“He had a lot of quality chances,” Konstantinov said, “but he didn’t score. He didn’t believe in himself. … I told him if he can believe in himself, he can score goals.”

On the five-goal night, Konstantinov assisted on four of Fedorov’s goals, Larionov on three and Fetisov on one.

“I’m glad for Sergei because he needed confidence,” Larionov said. “I don’t think it’s right for someone of his skills to be somewhere in the shadows. He’s a superstar, and he has to be the center of attention. It’s a shame for him to be somewhere in the middle.

“It’s easiest for Sergei when we play together. It’s easier for him to fulfill all his qualities. He’s a goal-scorer, he’s a playmaker, he’s a defensive forward. It’s easier when you’ve got somebody right beside him who knows what he’s doing.”

Against the Capitals, Fedorov beat Jim Carey with a high shot at 7:32 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Russian-style puck control at its finest with some North American-style grit.

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The play started in the defensive zone with Konstantinov feathering a backhand pass to Fedorov. He skated across the blue line before passing to Larionov, who carried it across the red line and blue line before putting the puck in the corner. Kozlov won a battle with Craig Berube, drove behind the net and left the puck in the opposite corner for Larionov. He circled to the middle of the zone and sent a backhand pass to Konstantinov in the face-off circle. To the side of the goal, Fetisov tangled with Washington’s Kelly Miller. At that point, the Wings’ defensemen were the closest to Carey. Konstantinov, with his back to the goal and a Capital on his back, tapped Larionov’s pass 10 feet to a wide-open Fedorov. He stopped the puck, took a step and fired home a 35-foot laser from the middle of the ice.

Forty seconds after Peter Bondra tied it in the second period, Fedorov scored again when he grabbed a loose puck at the red line, skated in alone and beat Carey high at 3:46. But Andrei Nikolishin and Bondra gave Washington a 3-2 lead by the end of the period.

Fedorov tied it at 10:33 of the third period when Shanahan, just inside the blue line, sent a pass back between his legs to Fedorov. With two Capitals on him, he slipped a pass to Konstantinov, headed to the net as the Caps collided, received a nifty return pass just outside the crease and, with the net wide open and no one near him, blasted it in. Hats littered the ice.

Less than a minute later, though, Dale Hunter beat Detroit’s Chris Osgood for a 4-3 lead.

Fedorov tied it again 41 seconds later, at 12:08, with the assists going to Larionov and Fetisov. Along the boards, Fetisov knocked down a clearing attempt and fed Larionov alone in a corner. Larionov slowly headed toward the goal and when a defensemen moved to confront him, he slid a backhand pass to Fedorov, who was standing still and wide open on the opposite side of the net. Carey didn’t have a prayer.

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Fedorov also scored four times in a 4-4 tie with Los Angeles on Feb. 12, 1995. He missed a penalty shot in overtime that would have won it. Against the Capitals, there was no such flaw.

In overtime, Kolzov gained the zone and tossed a soft pass to Larionov along the boards. He stopped. Then he hit Konstantinov streaking down the middle of the zone toward the goal. Konstantinov sent a backward pass to Fedorov, who kicked the puck to his stick and fired a 30-footer past Carey. The Joe exploded.

“This night was like rolling stones from the mountain coming at me,” Fedorov said. “I was very excited, because the overtime goal, that’s the most exciting part of the game.”

With the game-winner, Fedorov notched his 17th goal of the season and his 12th in the last 11 games. He also foresaw a bigger and better future.

“The most important scoring was the fifth goal,” Fedorov said. “That’s what gives you the win, that’s what gets you to the next round, that’s what gives you maybe the Stanley Cup.”

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings' Tyler Bertuzzi follows path of Sergei Fedorov