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Red Wings 4, Blue Jackets 0

by Larry Wigge

Larry Wigge - Columnist

DETROIT --  Pavel Datsyuk normally doesn't like to speak about individual skills and reasons for the success of his Detroit Red Wings. He had plenty to say Saturday night -- on and off the ice.

The talented Russian center wasn't concerned about the one goal he scored in the Wings' 4-0 victory over Columbus in Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series. It was all about the team and how every time the Wings have needed to come up with a big effort this season, they've done just that -- including this series, in which they've won both games with back-to-back dominant efforts.

Focus. Experience. Tenacity. Most of all an ability to finish off a team when the game is on the line. That's Red Wings hockey. They appear to have too many weapons for a team like Columbus that's taking part in the first playoff series in franchise history.

But it is experience and his team's killer instinct that Datsyuk singled out.

"When I came here we had guys like Steve Yzerman and Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom and so many other great players," he said. "Veterans pass their advice down to the younger guys. It's Red Wings hockey. Strong defense. Good skill ... and plenty of experience. That's important.

"We've got so many players in this room that know what it takes to win. I've been here long enough to know we'll never stop working hard. Some might have doubted us coming into the playoffs. Not anyone in our room."

When Datsyuk was asked how this team compares to last year's Red Wings, who won 16 of 22 postseason games to win their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years, a big smile came over his face as he shook his head. "Last year. I don't remember last year," he said. "The focus is on now. We've just started the playoffs."

Wings coach Mike Babcock suffered through his team's ups and downs during the regular season, but has enjoyed its dominance against the Blue Jackets.

"Whether its five guys on the ice or 20 guys on the roster, they do it together -- and that's what I like most about the playoffs," Babcock said of a roster that features a combined total of 40 Stanley Cup rings. "We've showed we're ready to play and we're really physically engaged."

Babcock paused for a second and then continued with a big smile, saying, "Big, strong guys who like winning."

The Red Wings used a big night third-line forwards Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson, who were involved in three of Detroit's four goals, to win Game 1. In Game 2, their top two lines did the damage. Defenseman Brian Rafalski scored a power-play goal with Datsyuk's line on the ice in the first period; Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg scored in the second period. Rafalski and Datsyuk's goals came on the power play.

Hudler added Detroit's third power-play goal at 3:38 of the third period. The Jackets killed any chance for a comeback by filling the penalty box the rest of the way against the NHL's best regular-season power play.

"When you give a team three power-play goals you don't expect to win, especially that team," Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Lost in the Wings dominance was a 25-save performance by Chris Osgood, who looks like the goaltender who led Detroit to the Cup last spring -- not the one who was among the NHL's worst during the regular season.

"It's all about experience in the playoffs -- and we've got plenty. It's not like our guys have won only one or two playoff series. We've won a lot," Osgood said after his 14th playoff shutout. "There were some down times last year, too. But there are so many competitors in this room, it shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone the way we've played in the first two games.

"I can tell you one thing: We couldn't wait to get to the playoffs."

It's the fifth consecutive series in which the Red Wings have taken a 2-0 lead. They won the first two games in all four series last spring on the way to the Stanley Cup. They're trying to become the first defending champion to get out of the first round the following year since Colorado did it in 2002.

Still, Babcock isn't ready to claim victory yet. The Wings will face a raucous crowd on Tuesday night when the Jackets host the first home playoff game in franchise history.

''Let's not get ahead of ourselves here,'' he said. ''We've won two games.''

With 3:50 left in the second period and Columbus down 3-0, Chris Osgood again showed his strength, focus and intensity in goal for Detroit by stopping a long-range shot by Fedor Tyutin, a great chance by Antoine Vermette from the slot and another shot from close in by Jason Chimera. The three stops snuffed out any potential momentum for the Jackets.

Tomas Holmstrom has been scoring much (no points in his last four games and no goals since Jan. 14), but he's still very important to the Wings because of his ability to create traffic in front of the net. He screened rookie goalie Steve Mason on Brian Rafalski's power-play goal in the first period and Pavel Datsyuk's in the second. He finished the game with one assist, but his presence in front of the net was clearly huge.

Brian Rafalski's 22nd career playoff goal, which gave Detroit a 1-0 lead 13:33 into the first period, was the third shot of the series to go into the net off a Columbus player. Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall had second-period goals in Game 1 that went in off Manny Malhotra and Jan Hejda, respectively. Rafalski's shot tipped off Fedor Tyutin and went into the net.

After all of the commotion by Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock about the Red Wings cheating on faceoffs, Detroit was 15-9 on draws in the first period -- including 6-2 for Pavel Datsyuk, who won the draw that set up Rafalski's goal. That gave Datsyuk a 20-5 record on faceoffs in his first four periods. Although the Jackets rallied to end the game 31-31 in faceoffs, Detroit won the big draws when the game was on the line.

The Red Wings have now taken a 2-0 lead in their fifth consecutive playoff series. They finished off Nashville in six games, Colorado in four straight and  Dallas in six before winning the first two games against Pittsburgh in last spring's six-game Final to capture their fourth Stanley Cup in the last 11 years.

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