DETROIT (AP) -Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson couldn't have come back at a better time for the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
The Swedish defensemen returned for Game 1 of the finals Saturday night and were instrumental in limiting the Pittsburgh Penguins to one goal and holding star Sidney Crosby scoreless in Detroit's 3-1 victory.
Lidstrom, the Red Wings' 39-year-old captain, missed the last two games of the Western Conference finals against Chicago because of a lower-body injury, while Ericsson played Saturday after having his appendix removed three days earlier.
"I think getting a few days off helped. I did feel a little rusty early in the game before I got my legs under me," Lidstrom said.
Once Ericsson got medical clearance to play, it was just about managing the pain.
"I felt good. In the warmups I didn't feel that great so I took some local shots at my big incisions," Ericsson said. "As the game went on, it felt better and better. No problems."
The 25-year-old rookie had 16 minutes and 47 seconds of ice time and was a plus-one. He also had three hits and a blocked shot.
"They're a huge help on the blue line," Red Wings forward Darren Helm said. "The guys that played in their absence did an unbelievable job, but definitely having Nick, one of the best 'D' in the league, for him to come back and play against Crosby all night and keep him off the scoreboard's really big for this team."
But Lidstrom and Ericsson weren't the only ones who worked to hold the Penguins in check.
Chris Osgood turned away 31 shots, and bruising defenseman Brad Stuart had five hits - and scored the game's first goal.
Stuart also set the tone early when he smashed Ruslan Fedotenko along the boards.
He picked up where he left off last year when he ranked second on the Red Wings in the Cup finals against Pittsburgh with a goal and four assists in six games. The goal Saturday was Stuart's second in 17 games this playoff season, the same number of goals he tallied in 67 regular-season games.
He flung the puck against boards, and it bounced toward Marc-Andre Fleury, hit the Penguins goalie and trickled in.
"I think he sat on it and pushed it in the net," Stuart said. "One of those lucky breaks, but we'll take it."
The Red Wings' second score - by Johan Franzen - also caromed in off Fleury, but Lidstrom said goals of those kind count just the same as any other.
"You have so many skilled players on both sides and we take each other out, so you have to have those type of playoff goals," he said.
Lidstrom, a four-time Cup winner, calmly patrolled the blue line, using his superior positioning and stick control to clear the zone time and again and not allow odd-man rushes featuring the speedy Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Lidstrom also logged the most ice time of any player with 24:07.
While the news was good for Detroit in having the two key defensemen back, the Wings still were without a pair of injured frontline players in Pavel Datsyuk and Kris Draper.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Datsyuk wasn't ready to return from a foot injury that forced him to sit out the last three games. Draper has played only four of Detroit's 16 playoff games because of an upper-body injury.
The Wings like to have Draper on key faceoffs - he has a career winning percentage of 57 - but they did just fine without him. Henrik Zetterberg won 15 of 20 draws and Darren Helm had 11 faceoff wins in 15 tries.
"Obviously, if you have the puck, you don't have to chase it," Babcock said.