June 4, 2002
DETROIT, MICHIGAN: Game One
Q. You led your team with 5 shots on -- 6 shots on goal, 5 hits, three takeaways, tied for the lead, plus two. How do you think you played?
JEFF O'NEILL: Well, I think more importantly as a team we played pretty well. I think my two linemates, Ron Francis, Sami Kapanen had exceptional games, and Arturs played well. When we get our cycle game going and get good goaltending, it's a good recipe for us to get a win.
Q. You are 7 and 1 in the Playoffs in overtime. Is there an explanation why you guys just have the golden touch there?
JEFF O'NEILL: I think we played our system and keep it simple. I think obviously we don't try to open it up too much, and we just try to grind it out for wins, and it worked so far. We try to keep it simple, get pucks to the net, and pretty good so far.
Q. Can you describe that last play, how you saw it developing and what you saw?
JEFF O'NEILL: Well, I think Olausson had the puck behind the net. I try tried to shut down the wall. I tried to hit Sami Kapanen going to the net. I got the puck back and I think when you see a guy standing in front of the net with as many points as Ron Francis does, you know, you pretty much got to pass it to him.
Q. Jeff, how fortunate did you guys feel after all the penalties in the first two periods to get that late goal and to go in 2-2?
JEFF O'NEILL: I think that was big to go into the dressing room tied 2-2 after the second, was obviously better than down 2-1. We tried to ride the momentum a bit, kept it close to the third, and scored a big goal in overtime.
Q. The breakaway, Aaron makes the pass, did you guys know how much it meant to him coming back in this building to make a play like that that set you up in position to score?
JEFF O'NEILL: It was great for Aaron. He's been a key part of our hockey team since the Playoffs started, and everybody knows he wants to do well. It's a difficult situation when you have spent a lot of time and had a lot of success with an organization. I know he has a lot of close friends over there. For him to have a big game tonight was big for him. We are all happy for him.
Q. What was the best thing about tonight for you?
JEFF O'NEILL: Probably winning the game. (Laughs). I think you know, we are all excited. We got a lot of young guys that are in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time. We are very excited. To get the first win was good, but we know we are playing against a great hockey team. I read a quote in the paper that nothing really phases that team, so we are in for a big battle.
Q. Were you surprised to see that puck slide in the way it was, the way the ice was tonight and also to see him go kind of head first, spin around you on that move?
JEFF O'NEILL: On my goal?
JEFF O'NEILL: Yeah, I just tried to go 5-hole. I tried to get an extra whack in there and you know it is a good feeling when you see the puck cross the goal line.
Q. Ronnie, you are usually the giver on those kind of passes. How does it feel to be a receiver on a game-winning goal?
RON FRANCIS: Certainly it feels good. I thought he made a great play, sort of bounced in front of the net, came back to him, he didn't give up on it, got up, and I slid it underneath Hasek's stick and over his padding into the net.
Q. You have been around obviously a long time, been in a lot of Playoffs series. How important is this one for you guys to get this one in Detroit, the franchise hadn't won here in a long time and maybe you know, if you lose this one maybe it slips away now make a statement win Game 1, how important is that?
RON FRANCIS: Well, you know, we have talked about it all season long, especially in the Playoffs. We come into every series with the mindset that we're willing to play seven games, and we try and focus on each game at hand, and you know, our focus and our intention was on Game 1, and obviously for us to win it is you know, a boost for our confidence. Now that's behind us. Our focus has to be ready for Game 2.
Q. Obviously been playing a while but did is that kind of a boyhood dream scoring overtime Stanley Cup goal like that, what emotions were going through when you hit it?
RON FRANCIS: I think our team is you know, that's about 34, I think overtime games for us this year, certainly we feel comfortable in that position. We have had a lot of success in this year's Playoffs in that position. It is just nice to get the goal and help our team accomplish the win that we wanted.
Q. What was your mindset approaching this game, seems like you got stronger as the game went on that you didn't truly let them do the barrage like they had against Colorado?
ARTURS IRBE: Well, we wanted to start the game right, and obviously even we gave them the lead, fairly early in the game and in the first period, we just tried to keep doing what we have been doing throughout the season, especially second half of the season and also Playoffs. Not to get too low, not to get too high and just play our system, and for myself personally, not to get bothered by the goal and keep stopping the shots that are going to come later because you know, it's 7-game series, and we don't want to see the blow out and we can't worry what is past. We have to look at the task ahead of us.
Q. Goals for you in your career, where does that one rank?
RON FRANCIS: You know, it's certainly up there. I think any time you score a goal, especially this point in the season it's special when it comes to a situation like that where it gives your team a win, obviously it's even more special. It's one game like we said. There's still a lot of work to do. Glad we get the first one under our belt, but you know, still a lot of work ahead.
Q. Did you dispute that first goal with the referee in any way? Seemed that Holmstrom was backing in on you at that point?
ARTURS IRBE: Well, I don't think I am in position to dispute because referee makes his call, he's not going upstairs. There is no reason to start to scream your lungs out and waste energy. Well, sure, we look but maybe look at replay we'll see what happened, but right now we just can't keep the grudge and at the end of the day, we came on the top, so I can't really get overly excited about it.
Q. A lot of penalties in the game tonight. Did you like the way the game was called and do you expect that's the way this entire series will be called?
RON FRANCIS: I thought the officials did a good job. I think from our standpoint we didn't want to take that many penalties against that team, so we have to work on that and be better in that department, but you know, win or lose, it's not the officials fault. Both teams had opportunities, especially in the third period with powerplays, and I thought our penalty killers did a great job tonight in giving us that opportunity to find a way to win again.
Q. Sometimes in the course of the regular season and Playoffs there's a moment where you come to believe you can, was there such a moment for this team this year either regular season or Playoffs?
RON FRANCIS: Probably a couple of different points. The one in December there was a lot of rumors swirling about Paul Maurice and his position and you know, the guys certainly believed in him and went on and won a big game in Florida for him. And that sort of helped gel us a little bit. I think the biggest thing was coming back off the olympic break, we went into some pretty tough buildings to play, had success, and started to build some momentum and believe that you know, we were capable of winning come some big games in tough buildings, and we went into this year's series I think with Jersey with a lot more confidence than we did the previous year, you know, I think certainly after that series was over that certainly helped boost our confidence even more. There's been a couple of different points, but I think it all adds up to us believing in ourselves, and believing in our team and going out there and trying to do our best.
Q. Do you remember Hull's move there with about 9 and a half minutes to go in the third period Marek came back and poked the puck away, do you think he would have had you on that goal if Marek wouldn't have backcheck on that?
ARTURS IRBE: It's hard to say. At that point I was just pleasantly surprised that he didn't get the shot on the net and that was-- I was glad that I could keep him off making the shot for a while with the poke check and by the time he got in position Marek was there, so that just shows that not only I stop them from scoring goals but other players also are beneficiaries of goaltending in a way. So and I really -- I was really glad to see him make that play.
End of FastScripts...