GLENDALE, Ariz. – The way Dave Tippett explained it, his Phoenix Coyotes had been playing possum with their power play all season.
“Took us 82 games to set that good trap,” Tippett joked after Phoenix went 3 for 4 with the man advantage in its 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western Conference series Wednesday night.
Derek Morris broke a tie early in the third period and assisted on two other goals, and Keith Yandle and Wojtek Wolski also scored.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 38 saves to help the Coyotes win a playoff game for the first time since April 20, 2002, the last year they were in the post-season.
The Coyotes were 28th in the NHL on the power play in the regular season and finished 0 for 20 over their final five games of the regular season, but scored on their first three power plays against the Red Wings.
“It was nice to come out today and do the basics, move the puck around, get shots on the net and good things happen when the little things happen,” Coyotes defenceman Ed Jovanovski said.
Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom scored for the Red Wings.
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard lost in regulation for the first time since March 9.
The Coyotes are the higher seed in the No. 4 versus No. 5 first-round matchup, but lack the post-season experience of the Red Wings, in the playoffs for the 19th straight year. Phoenix last won the first game of a playoff series in 1992, back when the team was the Winnipeg Jets.
Howard, in his first post-season appearance, made 32 saves. He was 13-0-2 in his last 15 games. Detroit hadn’t lost Game 1 of a first-round series since it was swept by Anaheim in 2003.
The Red Wings had their chances on the power play, too but went 1 for 6.
“They gave us some great opportunities, and we have to take advantage of it,” Howard said.
Matthew Lombardi added two assists for the Coyotes, who were outshot 30-15 through the first two periods but had a 20-10 advantage in the third.
“The second period we got our legs under us a little bit and I thought the second and third period was more like our team,” Tippett said. “I still think we can be much better.”
Morris scored the winner and gave Phoenix its first lead at 2:19 of the third period when he walked into the slot and blasted a shot off Howard’s shoulder and into the net. The goal was the defenceman’s first in the post-season.
“He’s got an absolute bomb,” Howard said. “I was trying to come out as far as I could without giving up the backdoor.”
Phoenix twice rallied from one-goal deficits.
“We believe we can come back from any score, and we don’t believe we’re out of any game,” Morris said.
Wolski, who has been a point-per-game player since being acquired from Colorado at the trade deadline, made it 2-2 at 6:15 of the second with a one-timer set up by Yandle. The goal breathed life into a Coyotes team that split four regular-season meetings with the Red Wings.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Wolski’s goal was the result of a mistake by his team and Morris’ goal shouldn’t have been allowed.
“The second we ran out of position totally and the third one should have been an interference penalty,” he said. “That’s the way hockey goes some times, but the bottom line is their specialty teams were better than ours tonight.”
Yandle tied it at 1-1 just 10 seconds into a first-period power play when his shot from the high slot slipped by Howard, who was blocked in front by Shane Doan. The goal brought the playoff-hungry crowd, dressed almost entirely in white as part of the franchise’s traditional post-season WhiteOut, to its feet.
The celebration, though, was short lived. Lidstrom’s power-play goal 2:14 later, on a shot through traffic from near the blue line, gave the Red Wings the lead again.
Holmstrom’s wrist shot from the top of the left circle put Detroit ahead 1-0 at 12:17 of the first period. Bryzgalov seemed to have the puck in his sight, but it got past him when he closed his glove.
Lidstrom took a stick to the face in the third period from Vernon Fiddler and needed five stitches to his upper lip. Officials didn’t call a penalty and told him he was hit by a teammate’s stick.
“The (referee) would have been better off telling me he missed it,” Lidstrom said.
The Red Wings started the playoffs on the road for the first time since 1991.
Johan Franzen, who assisted on Lidstrom’s goal, has 42 points in his last 40 playoff games.
NOTES: Lidstrom tied Mark Messier for second place on the career playoff games list at 236 and now trails only former teammate Chris Chelios (266). … The Red Wings had killed off 49 of the last 53 penalties they had taken coming into the game. … This is the third post-season meeting between these teams. The Red Wings won each of the first two series 4-2.