DETROIT – The Phoenix Coyotes are down, not daunted.
The Detroit Red Wings scored four straight goals to beat Phoenix 4-2 on Wednesday night, looking like the NHL powerhouse they’ve been for much of the past two decades.
“Hopefully it’s a kick in the pants for us and hopefully we can come back in Game 2 and get a win,” Coyotes defenceman Keith Yandle said. “You want to get two wins when you come on the road, but if you split that’s a successful trip.”
The Red Wings have other plans after being pushed to a Game 7 last year against the same team, planning to play with a sense of urgency Saturday at home to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round rematch.
“That’s what we talked about this morning,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Thursday after an optional practice. “What happens is when one team loses, they get better, and sometimes the other team is so busy pumping their own tires that they don’t get better.
“We’ve got to be better if we’re going to win. The urgency goes up as the series goes on and the playoffs go on.”
Detroit’s leading scorer, Henrik Zetterberg, skated Thursday morning for the first time since injuring his left knee last week. Zetterberg said he’s still day to day, adding how he feels Friday will be an important factor in his comeback.
“It was definitely fun to be out there,” he said. “I didn’t expect that a few days ago—even though I didn’t do basically anything out there.”
Derek Morris, one of Phoenix’s top defencemen, didn’t skate Thursday and is listed as day to day with an upper body injury.
The Coyotes won two of three games in Detroit last year, but lost their last two at home to extend the franchise’s playoff futility.
Phoenix’s franchise hasn’t advanced out of the first round since 1987, when it was the Winnipeg Jets.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, have been in 20 straight postseasons—the longest active streak in North America’s four major leagues—and have won four Stanley Cups.
Detroit would need to win 15 more playoff games to win the title in two months, but that looks like more of a possibility than it did toward the end of a relatively lacklustre regular season.
In Game 1, it seemed as if the Red Wings flipped a switch to suddenly start playing better.
“They were awake in my meeting the other day,” Babcock said. “It’s totally different. That’s what makes it exciting and that’s what makes older gentleman younger.”
Two weeks away from his 41st birthday, Detroit defenceman Nick Lidstrom agreed.
“We look at the playoffs as being a fresh start,” he said. “It’s start from scratch.”
The Red Wings got off to a strong start in their post-season opener in large part because they killed four penalties in the first period—including a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 91 seconds—and appeared to frustrate the goaltender at the other end of the ice.
“When we have our chances, we don’t even hit the net,” Ilya Bryzgalov said. “That’s the difference.”
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett thinks he and his staff figured out the team’s problem when it had a one- and two-man advantage.
“You could tell our guys were a little anxious,” Tippett said. “We told our guys to calm down, make the plays we normally make.”