Nicklas Lidstrom was a nightmare for forwards, coaches, goalies around the NHL. However, there might not be an NHL figure who’s had as many Nick Lidstrom nightmares as former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Dan Cloutier.
There isn’t a Canucks fan who was alive in 2002 that forgets one of the most infamous goals against in team history, especially considering the ramifications of that game.
The eighth-seeded Canucks shockingly won both games in Detroit to begin the opening round series. Henrik Sedin had the overtime winner in Game One, while Cloutier dazzled with a sparkling 34-save performance for the Game Two victory.
It set the stage for the Canucks to take a commanding 3-0 lead in Game Three on home ice. Steve Yzerman opened the scoring, before Todd Bertuzzi responded with his second goal of the series to tie the game at 1-1. The back and forth contest nearly went into the second intermission knotted up, before Lidstrom changed the momentum of that entire series.
Here’s what Lidstrom had to say about the goal on an episode of Spittin’ Chiclets.
“Yeah well the first one there against the Canucks in ‘02, I think it was tied at one late in the second period with less than a minute left, and i just gained the red line trying to get a shot off, get a rebound actually, shoot low on Cloutier’s left side.”
“I know Brett Hull is going down the right side so I’m just hoping for a rebound for him to go and get the rebound and somehow the puck went in. I was probably just as surprised as everybody else in the building that the puck went in.”
It’s interesting to hear that Lidstrom did actually have a plan with that shot, and that it wasn’t just a hopeful dump-in on Cloutier. That speaks to Lidstrom’s ability to read the play and read the game, something that made him so successful throughout his NHL career.
That goal also falls under the category of “lucky things happen to good players,” and that was definitely the case with Lidstrom on that shot. The Wings would go on to defeat the Canucks in four straight games to take the series 4-2 before defeating the Carolina Hurricanes to win the Stanley Cup. Lidstrom would go on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as well.
Lidstrom also commented on Steve Yzerman famously saying “we’re not losing this fucking series” after going down 2-0 against the Canucks.
“I remember Stevie making those comments. I think I might have been in the locker room in Vancouver when we got in the following day for practice and him telling us we’re a good team, we just won the President’s Trophy, we’re the best team in the regular season so we’re not gonna lose this series. We’re gonna go out and play with confidence and we’re gonna show everyone how good of a team we are.”
“That was tough losing those two home games at first. I remember Dominik Hasek who was in net for us, someone threw out his jersey on the ice at the Joe which wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”
“Somehow, we had that confidence in our group that we could beat them, being down 2-0 going on the road which was a tough situation. We felt we were good enough to turn that series around, which we did.”
Lidstrom on the toughest player to stop
Throughout his NHL career, Lidstrom continually had to face some of the greatest legends that hockey has ever seen. He was breaking into the league that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemiuex were still dominating. He played Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin twice in the Stanley Cup Finals. He also faced Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic time and time again in the playoffs.
Despite all that, Lidstrom mentioned former Canuck Pavel Bure as one of the toughest players he ever had to defend.
“It was always hard [playing] against fast guys. If you go back tot he ‘90s when Pavel Bure was flying around, he was always anticipating where the puck was going to go. He always had a step or half a step on you and if he had that, you were toast. You couldn’t get back so you always had to take a step back when you played against him.”
Lidstrom did in fact mention Gretzky as well, along with Pavel Bure. Not bad company for the Russian Rocket.