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This article was published 2/5/2009 (4476 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
FOR a man who has scored a Game 7 winner deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs it's tough to call a goal big. Mike Keane will tell you his third-period marker on Friday night was size large.
He'll save extra-large for another moment, but large is nice just the same.
Keane popped the winner for his Manitoba Moose in a 2-1 Game 1 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins in this best-of-seven North Division Final before 7,572 customers at the MTS Centre. Keane's goal came after his club had trailed for a good portion of the night and needed to be preserved for a major chunk of the third period.
"It's always nice to score in the playoffs. Everyone has to chip in and our line did in this game," said Keane, before reflecting on the chance to play in front of his family and friends during the later chapters of his career. "It's been awesome. Not just for moments like this. But for lots of reasons. Not every player gets a chance to do this, to play in their hometown. I've loved it and hopefully we can fulfill our dream and win a championship."
Captain Keane scored his first of the playoffs just over a minute after Alex Bolduc tied the game at 1-1 as the veteran charged to the net, took a tidy pass from centre Mark Cullen and pushed the puck past Griffins goalie Jimmy Howard.
The Winnipeg faithful showed some love for their native son as they got to their feet and bellowed at the announcement of the 41-year-old Keane's marker. Most nights Keane punches his time card and thanklessly blocks shots and kills penalties, but the hometown fans aren't fooled, knowing the three-time Stanley Cup winner does plenty to help the winning cause.
They paid the one-time Assiniboine Park Ranger with a lovely round of applause.
The Griffins move ahead with the first goal of the series as Francis Pare grabbed a rebound off the back wall and slipped it behind a sprawling Moose netminder Cory Schneider at 18:04 of the first period. It stayed that way until the third period when Bolduc, back after missing three games due to injury this post-season, scored on a wrap-around 1:16 into the frame.
Moose coach Scott Arniel was happy to puff up Keane's tires.
"Mike is just Mike and he does his job the same every night. He scored a big goal for us and made a good play going to the net," said Arniel.
"Whether he's blocking shots or playing defensively and grinding it out, or doing his best to chip in offensively. He wears the captain's C for a reason and he showed why again in this game."
There's been some noise in this space about Schneider playing OK but not at his peak in the post-season, but that wasn't the case on Friday night as the second-year man and AHL goalie of the year was brilliant, particularly in the third when the Moose needed saves to preserve their slim cushion.
Schneider stoned Jan Mursak on a breakaway and then in the final 10 minutes refused to be the soft spot in Manitoba's defensive joint.
The Moose opened the playoffs in a bit of a funk, losing two of the first three games to the Toronto Marlies in the North semifinal before finding their range and spanking the Baby Leafs in the final three games of that series for a six-game series win.
Manitoba took two periods to break through on Friday night after carrying the play and out-chancing the Griffins by a large margin. The final shots on goal totals favoured the Moose by a 34-22 count. Bolduc was excellent, finishing the game with a goal and an assist, but perhaps Manitoba's best player was Cullen, who despite counting just one assist, was a factor in both ends of the rink all night.
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