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Boards frustrate Pens as pucks bounce Wings' way

NHL.com @NHL

DETROIT (AP) -Game 1 of a playoff series is almost always the Detroit Red Wings' game, and give credit in part to their home-ice advantage.

The Pittsburgh Penguins? They probably feel like giving the Red Wings two minutes for boarding.

The Red Wings used their knowledge of Joe Louis Arena's exceptionally lively boards to repeatedly set up offensive plays that led to rebound goals - and frustrate the Penguins once again in the Stanley Cup finals - during their 3-1 victory Saturday night.

The Penguins, especially goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, were aware of the Red Wings' ability to create offense by accurately reading how pucks would deflect off the end boards, yet it made a difference as Detroit again took Game 1.

"They got a couple (off the boards), and it's frustrating," Fleury said.

Not for the Red Wings, who have won nine consecutive Game 1s since an April 26, 2007, loss to San Jose and are 9-1 at home in these playoffs.

Thank you, Joe Louis.

"You know the pucks are coming off the backboards quickly," coach Dan Bylsma said after the Penguins played much better than they did in losing 4-0 in Game 1 of last year's finals, yet still found themselves down 1-0 in the series. "We're aware of it. We practiced it and they got some fortunate breaks off it. That's something they were better at than we were. ... They capitalized on it."

The Penguins could have chosen to fly to Detroit early on Friday and gotten in an extra practice at Joe Louis Arena, but they felt it wasn't necessary since they played there three times in the finals last season and once during the regular season.

"They know the boards," forward Max Talbot said. "They were using that for set plays."

Brad Stuart's goal at 13:38 of the first was a rebound off the back boards that Fleury tried to cover up, only to have the puck deflect off his right skate and slide across the goal line. Johan Franzen scored the go-ahead goal in the final minute of the second off another rebound that conveniently bounced the Red Wings' way.

"It's amazing," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of what called the liveliest boards in the NHL. "Just when you think the game is quick, you see the bounces those boards have. I mean for the goalies, for the defense, for everybody, they're pretty tough to read. So it makes things a little quicker."

And a little tougher for the Penguins, who lost the first two games in Detroit by 4-0 and 3-0 a year ago and went on to lose the finals in six games.

"They (the boards) definitely are dangerous, and tonight they bounced our way," Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood said. "It's tough for goalies. They're scoring lots in the regular season on them. Especially if it comes off one side and out the other, you're pretty much left defenseless. It can be frustrating, but you've got to work them the best you can."

The Penguins have less than a day to get more comfortable with Joe Louis before Game 2 on Sunday night, but Crosby said they can take a lot out of Game 1 - it a loss, for certain, but not a discouraging one.

"We believe in our game. Didn't go the way we wanted it to tonight. But the good thing is we've got a short period of time here to prepare and get ready for Game 2," Crosby said. "We're confident that we can get one here and go home."

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