Balanced effort helps Red Wings blank Blue Jackets

DETROIT (AP) — The Red Wings relied on unsung players to get
off to a good start against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Two stars put the defending Stanley Cup champions in control.

Pavel Datsyuk slammed a shot into the net, and Henrik Zetterberg
sent a puck to the top shelf, leading Detroit to a 4-0 win
against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night and a 2-0 lead in the
first-round Western Conference series.

“They’re best players today were their best players,” Columbus
coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They were terrific and they made the

In Game 1, Detroit’s third line was dominant while Datsyuk’s and
Zetterberg’s lines didn’t do much offensively.

Brian Rafalski scored the first goal of Game 2 and Jiri Hudler
had the last, giving Chris Osgood more than enough support as he
posted his 14th NHL playoff shutout.

Barring a stunning turnaround, Detroit will become the first
defending Stanley Cup champion to reach the second round since
the Colorado Avalanche did it seven years ago.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here,” Red Wings coach Mike
Babcock said. “We’ve won two games.”

Columbus hopes returning home will help Tuesday night when it
hosts a playoff game for the first time in franchise history.

“We have to respond to the pressure to make this a long series,”
Hitchcock said.

The Red Wings have silenced Blue Jackets star Rick Nash, holding
him pointless in two games.

“That’s a team effort,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “It’s not
just one guy who can hold down a guy like that. Strong play from
the defensemen, but also the forwards coming back hard.”

Detroit has made rookie goalie Steve Mason long for the success
he had during the regular season.

Mason had an NHL-high 10 shutouts, the most by a rookie since
Chicago’s Tony Esposito during in the 1969-70 season, but he has
given up four goals in his first two playoff games. He made 35
saves in Game 2.

READ ALSO:  Cat pitch invader halts play at Anfield

Osgood stopped 25 shots and moved into a fourth-place tie on the
NHL’s career postseason shutout list with former teammate
Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour and Jacques Plante.

“Ozzie has played real well, making some big saves,” Babcock

The second-seeded Red Wings vowed to take the seventh-seeded
Blue Jackets seriously before the series started.

It wasn’t just talk.

Detroit knows what its like to lose in the first round as
defending champions because it happened to the storied franchise
in 2002.

The next four NHL champions — New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Carolina
and Anaheim — failed to put up much of a fight after hoisting
the Cup.

The Devils, Lightning and Ducks all had first-round exits as
defending champions and the Hurricanes didn’t make it to the

“It’s the accumulation of wearing a target all the time,” said
Hitchcock, who helped the Dallas Stars reach the 2000 Cup finals
as a defending champion. “You get everybody’s A-game during the
regular season, and then you get A-plus in the playoffs.”

After winning the Cup in 2001, the Colorado Avalanche lost to
Detroit in the Western Conference finals.

Columbus was competitive for much of Game 1 despite the 4-1

The Blue Jackets hung around for about half of the first period
Saturday before Detroit’s talent, speed and toughness
overwhelmed them.

“We look like we’re back to playing like we can, being
physically engaged,” Babcock said. “The physical part of our
game is very much underestimated by our opponents. We’ve got
big, strong guys who like winning.”

Rafalski scored on the power play at 13:33 of the first period,
Datsyuk scored on a power play midway through the second, and
Zetterberg’s even-strength goal late in the second made it 3-0.

In the third period, Hudler scored on a power play. It was his
second goal of the series.