Detroit punished the Flames with checks and depth; its goaltending was solid; Pavel Datsyuk finally scored in the postseason and Henrik Zetterberg played for the first time in two months. Defenceman Mathieu Schneider, who scored and landed the first big hit of the first-round series, agreed it was a perfect game for the Red Wings.
“That can be scary because you want to keep up the momentum,” he said. “We’ve been in this situation before, so we know Game 2 is huge.
“It’s as big for us as it is for them because we need to win to keep home-ice advantage that we worked all year to get.”
Game 2 is Sunday in Detroit before the best-of-seven series shifts to Calgary.
In the first 8½ minutes Thursday, the Red Wings put a Calgary player on his back and had the Flames on their heels with a crushing check and two goals.
Valtteri Filppula and Nicklas Lidstrom scored in the first period after Schneider knocked down Matthew Lombardi, setting the tone early.
“They came out and made a heavy push,” Calgary coach Jim Playfair said.
The Red Wings didn’t let up.
They led 4-0 by the middle of the second – on goals from Datsyuk and Schneider – giving goaltender Dominik Hasek more than enough offensive support.
Datsyuk ended a 26-game scoreless streak in the playoffs, dating to Game 7 of the 2002 conference final.
“For me, it’s huge,” he acknowledged.
It was also important for Detroit that Zetterberg played for the first time since Feb. 24 because an inflamed disc in his back kept him out of the final 19 regular-season games.
Zetterberg played hard and fast, showing he was healthy.
“It was a big test, and I felt great all game,” he said.
The Red Wings are determined to use toughness, depth and improved goaltending to avoid the early exits in the playoffs that have haunted them in recent years.
So far, so good.
“We’ve been working on that for 82 games,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
The Western Conference’s top-seeded team played with the mix of skill and grit.
Filppula’s goal ended a beautiful, end-to-end play.
Then the Red Wings scored an ugly, playoff-type goal they have often failed to produce during under-achieving postseasons.
Lidstrom’s shot from between the circles was to the left of the net, but it bounced off Brad Stuart and past goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
Stuart slumped his shoulders and tilted his head back, looking up to the rafters where Detroit’s 10 Stanley Cup banners hang.
Calgary avoided a shutout with 5:05 left, when Alex Tanguay scored.
Hasek made 19 saves, facing just two shots in the first 10 minutes and 12 after two periods.
Playing in the postseason for the first time since helping Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2002, Hasek fell just short of his 13th shutout in the playoffs.
“From my point, I don’t count the shutouts in the playoffs or any numbers,” he said. “It’s all about the win.”
Kiprusoff was much busier, facing 46 shots.
“He gave us a chance,” said Calgary’s Jarome Iginla, who didn’t have a shot.
The Red Wings tied Buffalo for the most points in the NHL and have at least tied for the most points in the league in three straight seasons and four of five. But since winning consecutive Stanley Cups in 1997-98, Detroit has lost in the first round in two of the last three postseasons and made it past the second round in only once.
Calgary upset the Red Wings in the second round of the 2004 playoffs, giving Iginla enough confidence to say, “I think that we believe we can beat them” the day before the series started.
The one-sided game was chippy at times, and with 1:24 left, pushing and shoving led to punches and a pileup of players and officials behind Kiprusoff after Detroit’s Dan Cleary skated into the goalie after he made a save.
“They were very frustrated, you could see on their faces,” Hasek said.
Notes: Detroit D Chris Chelios set an NHL record by playing in the postseason for a 22nd time, breaking Hall of Famer Ray Bourque’s mark, and became the second-oldest player to be in the playoffs. Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was 52 when he played with Hartford in 1980 after a stellar career with the Red Wings. … The Flames were without D Robyn Regehr and F Jeff Friesen while Detroit missed F Todd Bertuzzi, who might play Sunday. … The Red Wings are in their 16th consecutive postseason, the longest playoff streak in North American professional sports. The New York Yankees are second with a 12-season playoff streak. … The announced crowd was 19,204 at Joe Louis Arena, where numerous seats were empty in many sections.