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Red Wings 4, Blue Jackets 1 @NHLdotcom

John Kreiser | Columnist

In the Columbus Blue Jackets' first-ever playoff game, Manny Malhotra tried to do more than he needed. He and his teammates paid the price.

With the game tied 1-1 late in the second period, Malhotra tried to snatch Jonathan Ericsson's point shot out of the air with his glove. Instead, Malhotra deflected it past goaltender Steve Mason, putting the Wings ahead to stay. Detroit wound up with a 4-1 victory in the opener of its Western Conference Quarterfinal series on Thursday night.

"I saw the shot all the way and I wanted to grab it," Malhotra said. "But I didn't get enough of it, obviously."

Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock insisted he doesn't coach his players to do what Malhotra did.

"We've made that mistake before, and it cost us the same way," Hitchcock said. "That's an easy, simple save for Mason."

Ericsson's goal came at 14:21, Niklas Kronwall scored a power-play goal 48 seconds later on Detroit's next shot, beating Mason through a screen set by Johan Franzen. The Jackets never recovered. Franzen's tuck-in goal past Mason 2:54 into the third period added some insurance, but the Wings' puck-possession game was the real star -- the defending Stanley Cup champs limited Columbus to just two shots on goal in the final 20 minutes.

That came after Columbus had 13 during a scoreless first period that saw both teams stopped on numerous scoring chances. Detroit netminder Chris Osgood had to make a diving save 1½ minutes into the game following a turnover and survived four power-play opportunities.

Jiri Hudler opened the scoring 10:48 into the second period, but Columbus tied the game 52 seconds later when rookie Jakub Voracek stole the puck and fed R.J. Umberger, who was alone in front of the crease and quickly spun before beating Osgood with a backhander.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock didn't apologize for the break that proved to be the game's turning point.

"The way they're playing, everyone is playing goal and trying to block shots," Babcock said. "You can block a lot of shots, but it also ends up going off you sometimes."

Mason stopped the first 21 shots he faced before giving up three goals -- two of which he was helpless on -- in a five-shot stretch.

The 20-year-old rookie said the series is far from over.

"We leave here with it being a game apiece and that will be a good accomplishment," said Mason, who finished with 30 saves.

Despite the final score, Columbus sounded confident about its chances in its first playoff series since joining the NHL in 2000.

"The one thing that was a bit of a concern was guys being overwhelmed," defenseman Mike Commodore said. "We were in a tough building, but we came out and played on even terms with them.

Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios appeared in his 261st career playoff game, extending his NHL record.

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report

Jiri Hudler's goal that opened the scoring came after a superb bit of teamwork. Valtteri Filppula worked his way toward the net, avoiding the defense’s attempts at disrupting his play. He then feathered a soft pass to Hudler right in front of the goal, and Hudler made no mistake, burying the puck for the game’s first goal.

Chris Osgood didn't have a lot of work, making only 20 saves. But he stopped 13 shots in the opening period, when the Blue Jackets put on good pressure and matched the Wings chance for chance.

He didn't make the scoresheet, but Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk did a lot of other things right. His 14-5 mark on faceoffs helped the Wings control the puck, and he was credited with six of their 37 hits.

Detroit outshot Columbus 20-8 in the final 40 minutes, including 8-2 in the third period.

The difference between Detroit's League-leading power play (25.5 percent in the regular season) and Columbus' 30th-place unit (12.7 percent) was apparent. The Wings cashed in one of their four tries, while Columbus missed a chance to get the jump in the first period when the Jackets came up empty on four chances.


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