DETROIT - Johan Franzen gave Detroit the lead and rookie Justin Abdelkader got his first NHL goal as the Red Wings downed the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the opening game of the Stanley Cup final on Saturday night.
The two teams will continue the best-of-seven series in Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday night (CBC, 8 p.m. ET).
Brad Stuart also scored for the Red Wings, who are facing the Penguins in the final for a second year in a row after besting them in six games last spring.
Ruslan Fedotenko scored for Pittsburgh.
The game was a lively, physical thriller in which the best players - Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and Marian Hossa - were front and centre even if none of them scored.
A key was Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood, who made 31 saves and had the better of rival goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 27.
The Red Wings were boosted by the return from injury of defence ace Nicklas Lidstrom and rookie blue-liner Jonathan Ericsson, but were still missing star centre Pavel Datsyuk and veteran Kris Draper.
It was clear from the opening faceoff that this was not the star-struck Pittsburgh team of a year ago that was shut out in the opening two games in Detroit as the Penguins battled the Red Wings evenly through a high-tempo first period.
Zetterberg rang a puck off the crossbar four minutes in and Hossa, a pariah in Pittsburgh since he jumped from the Penguins to Detroit last summer, had his bell rung on a jarring open ice hit by Brooks Orpik after eight minutes.
But Hossa shook it off at the bench and was back on the ice when Stuart kept a puck in at the left point and the defenceman saw his shot go off the end boards, hit the back of Fleury's leg and slide into the net at 13:38.
The Penguins struck right back at 18:37, as Malkin intercepted a pass from Stuart in the Detroit zone and saw Fedotenko put in his rebound.
The crowd was chanting Ozzie, Ozzie after Malkin stole the puck from Niklas Kronwall and went in on a breakaway only to be thwarted by a glove save 3:27 into the second frame.
Late in the period, the Red Wings had Pittsburgh hemmed in its zone for a long stretch until Hal Gill fired the puck past teammate Chris Kunitz at the blue-line for an icing call. Coach Dan Bylsma called time out to rest his troops, but Detroit won the faceoff and kept the puck in again.
Franzen went to the net to take a rebound off the boards and chop a backhander that again went in off the back of the sprawled Fleury's leg with 58 seconds left in the period.
Only 2:46 into the third frame, fourth liner Abdelkader, a 22-year-old from Muskegon, Mich., lifted his own rebound over Fleury for a two-goal lead.
Teams that win Game 1 have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 54 times out of 69 (78 per cent) since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939.
Notes: As announced, Datsyuk sat out a fourth straight game with a foot injury while Draper missed a third with a groin problem. Peter Sykora was scratched for a 10th game in a row by Pittsburgh. . . The Red Wings average age is 33.4 years, more than four years older than the Penguins at 29.0 years. The youngest player in the final is Pens' 20-year-old Jordan Staal while the oldest is 47-year-old Chris Chelios of the Red Wings. . . Hossa is the first player to switch sides in consecutive finals since John MacMillan in 1963 with Detroit and 1964 with Toronto.