DETROIT — The Red Wings relied on unsung players to get off to a good start against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Then two of their stars put the defending Stanley Cup champions in control for good.
Pavel Datsyuk slammed a shot home and Henrik Zetterberg put another top shelf in leading Detroit to a 4-0 win against the Blue Jackets on Saturday and give the Red Wings a 2-0 lead in their 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 difference.”
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 rounded out the scoring to give 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,” defenceman Brad Stuart said. “It’s not just one guy who can hold down a guy like that. Strong play from the defencemen, 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.
Osgood stopped 25 shots and moved into a fourth-place tie on the NHL’s career post-season shutout list with former teammate Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour and Jacques Plante.
“Ozzie has played real well, making some big saves,” Babcock said.
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 playoffs.
“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 score.
The Blue Jackets hung around for about half of the first period Saturday before getting overwhelmed by Detroit’s talent, speed and toughness.
“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.
Notes: Columbus D Mike Commodore was escorted off the ice in the third period after being given a game misconduct and a roughing penalty. … Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom had his 108th career playoff assist on the first goal, putting him into a tie with Denis Potvin for seventh place on the NHL list among defencemen. … Mason gave up nine goals in the last two games of the regular season. … Osgood won his 61st playoff game, putting him in a tie for 12th on the NHL career list with Tom Barrasso. … Columbus had lost consecutive games in regulation just twice in the past two months. … Detroit D Chris Chelios, who has played in an NHL-record 260 playoff games, has been a healthy scratch in the series. Chelios played in 14 playoff games last year. … The Red Wings have 21 players on their roster with a combined total of 40 Stanley Cup rings. The Blue Jackets have four players with a total of four.