Detroit led 4-0 by the middle of the second – on Pavel Datsyuk’s and Mathieu Schneider’s goals – giving goaltender Dominik Hasek more than enough support. Game 2 is here Sunday.
The Red Wings are determined to use toughness, depth and improved goaltending to avoid the early playoff exits that have haunted them in recent years.
So far, so good.
The Western Conference’s top-seeded team set the tone in the opening minutes when Schneider knocked down Matthew Lombardi, landing the first big hit of the game. A few minutes later, Filppula’s goal ended a beautiful, end-to-end play.
Then the Red Wings scored an ugly, playoff-type goal they’ve 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.
Kiprusoff was much busier, facing 46 shots.
The Red Wings tied Buffalo for the most points in the NHL – losing a tiebreaker for the Presidents’ Trophy a year after winning it – 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 2002, when it won a championship.
Calgary upset the Red Wings in the second round of the 2004 playoffs and that gave Flames star Jarome Iginla enough confidence to say “I think that we believe we can beat them,” the day before the series started.
In the opening minutes of Game 1, Detroit could’ve made Iginla think twice about his public moxie.
In between Schneider’s big hit and Lidstrom’s lucky goal, relatively new faces showed these might not be the same struggling Red Wings in the playoffs.
Detroit defenceman Brad Lebda carried the puck up the middle of the ice and passed to Johan Franzen, whose centring pass from the left boards perfectly set up Filppula in front of the net for his goal.
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.
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. … Datsyuk ended a 26-game scoreless streak in the playoffs, dating to Game 7 of the 2002 conference final. … The announced crowd was 19,204 at Joe Louis Arena, where numerous seats were empty in many sections.