The Detroit Red Wings
had the talent to win the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s best regular-season team. In their playoff opener against the Nashville Predators
, they had a little bit of luck, too.
Henrik Zetterberg scored the tie-breaking goal 6:54 into the third period and added an empty-netter to give the Red Wings a 3-1 victory on Thursday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. Game 2 is Saturday afternoon in Detroit.
With the game tied 1-1, officials ruled Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk prevented Nashville defenseman Shea Weber from clearing the puck, setting up the go-ahead goal. The Predators said the play should've been negated by an offsides call.
With play allowed to continue, Datsyuk made a cross-ice pass from the left circle to set up Zetterberg's one-timer that hit the back of the net before Dan Ellis could slide over or get his glove on it.
''We cleared the puck and it looked like it hit the linesman and came back in,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. ''I looked at it again on replay and from my judgment, it looked fairly clear. Usually in that situation, the linesmen or the referee blow that to not give an unfair advantage.''
Zetterberg said the puck stayed in the Nashville zone, but did acknowledge that the Wings got a break.
''I think it was a lucky bounce,'' said Zetterberg, who added his empty-net goal with 19 seconds left. ''I think it hit the ref and went straight to my stick. That's the kind of bounces you need in the playoffs. We had them with us tonight.''
They needed them, too. The Predators, who went 5-0-1 down the stretch to grab the final playoff berth in the West, looked anything but intimidated against their Central Division rival.
Detroit took a 1-0 lead at 5:58 of the opening period when Johan Franzen grabbed a loose puck that deflected off Nashville forward Radek Bonk’s stick and ripped it past Ellis.
Though the Wings kept firing away — they outshot Nashville 27-17 in the first two periods — Ellis kept the deficit at one goal until Jordin Tootoo tied it on a deflected shot past Dominik Hasek at 17:47 of the second.
''Danny gave us a chance to win — plain and simple,'' Trotz said. ''We're going to have to put more pressure on Hasek.”
After Zetterberg put Detroit ahead, Vernon Fiddler had a chance to tie the game a couple of minutes later but rang a shot off the post.
The Red Wings, who led the NHL in points for the third time in four seasons, desperately wanted to get off to a good start in the series after losing as a top-seeded team just two years ago.
''The first one is the toughest to get, especially when you're at home and you've got more jitters than you'd think,'' Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Detroit has won the Presidents' Trophy six times since 1995 — three more than any other franchise — but has followed up with a Stanley Cup only once, in 2002.
''They've won that many games for a reason — because they're such a well-tuned machine and they just keep at you,'' Ellis said.
Stars make Ducks pay for penalties in 4-0 win | Video
The Anaheim Ducks filled the penalty box. The Dallas Stars filled the net. That’s not the way the Ducks envisioned the start of their Stanley Cup defense.
Anaheim, the NHL’s most penalized team during the regular season, gave the Stars seven power-play chances, and the Stars turned four of them into goals, scoring twice each in the first and second periods.
“Our penalty kill really did not do a good job," Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "There were a lot of things that weren’t as good as they should have been. We did take some bad penalties. They seemed to find a way to score almost at will. We have to do better as penalty-killers. We have to answer the bell better."
The Ducks sagged after first-period goals by Steve Ott and Loui Eriksson put Dallas ahead, and went for nearly 20 minutes — from midway through the first period to midway through the second — without generating a shot on Marty Turco.
"We couldn't have drawn it up any better tonight," said captain Brenden Morrow, who had two assists and the Stars’ fourth goal. "We stayed disciplined and took advantage on the power play. I can't remember the last time we won Game 1, but everyone contributed and played their roles. It was a huge confidence builder for us."
Turco was sharp early in his fourth career playoff shutout before the Stars’ power play began to click.
“The power play was a difference maker, along with Marty Turco,” said Ott, who was credited with the first goal at 11:25 of the opening period when Stephane Robidas’ shot nicked him and went past Jean-Sebastien Giguere. “Early on, he made some big saves.”
Eriksson came free in the slot and one-timed Brad Richards’ pass behind Giguere at 17:34 for a 2-0 lead.
The Stars went ahead by three at 3:58 of the third period when Mike Ribeiro set up behind the net and fed an unguarded Jere Lehtinen, who snapped a wrist shot over Giguere's right shoulder.
Morrow made it 4-0 at 17:22 when Ribeiro, just across the goal line near the right post, slid the puck across the crease and the Stars’ captain was able to get his stick beyond the defenders and push the puck past Giguere.
“Their power play was clicking tonight,” Anaheim defenseman Kent Huskins said. “It was one of those nights when we were unable to maintain our discipline. They executed their system much better than we did.”
Stars coach Dave Tippett won a series opener for the first time in his career.
"We had some fortunate bounces, but everybody was really good," Tippett said. "It was a solid team effort, and you need that to win in the playoffs."
The Stars don’t expect the Ducks to change their style of play for Game 2 on Saturday night at Honda Center.
“They’re not going to stop their aggressive style,” Turco said. “That’s who they are.”
Added Ott: “They’re an extremely strong playoff team. They’re the Stanley Cup champions. They know how to deal with adversity.”
Sharks even series with 2-0 win over Flames | Video
Miikka Kiprusoff was incredible for the second straight night — but this time, Evgeni Nabokov was perfect.
Nabokov stopped all 21 shots he faced as San Jose evened its Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Flames at one win apiece. Nabokov’s play enabled San Jose to overcome a second consecutive brilliant performance by Kiprusoff, an ex-Shark, and send the series to Calgary for Game 3 on Sunday tied at one win each.
The Flames won 3-2 on Wednesday night despite being outshot 39-23. This time the disparity in shots was even greater — 43-21. But Calgary filled the penalty box in the second period, giving the Sharks nearly 10 minutes of power-play time in the period, and the Sharks outshot the Flames 27-3.
''That was some second period,'' Kiprusoff said. ''It was quite a scene in front of the net, with quite a few 5-on-3s. Our killers did a pretty good job of keeping us in the game, but it wasn't enough.''
San Jose got both of its goals in the middle period. Joe Pavelski scored at 4:56 and Torrey Mitchell finally cashed in a power-play chance when he scored at 18:09 on the Sharks’ 26th shot of the period.
“We had some penalty trouble in the second period,” Calgary defenseman Robyn Regehr said. “We lost our discipline a little, and they took advantage.” Nabokov didn’t have to work as hard as Kiprusoff, but he made up in quality what he lacked in quantity of shots. His best stop came with 4:51 remaining in regulation, when he gloved a shot by former Shark Owen Nolan — triggering an ovation that lasted through the TV timeout (VIDEO). He also made a pair of brilliant stops in the opening period to keep the game scoreless after 20 minutes.
“Nabby’s the best in the world, and he’s on our side,” Mitchell said.
The NHL’s winningest regular-season goaltender knew his team couldn’t afford to go to Calgary down two games.
''We knew we couldn't lose going to Calgary,'' said Nabokov, who had 46 wins in the regular season. ''They were playing great hockey, and we just kept coming at them. It's a win, that's the most important thing. A shutout is icing on the cake. There's a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of fights ahead of us.''
The Sharks took their first lead of the series when Marc-Edouard Vlasic's shot bounced off the boards behind the Calgary net and went to Pavelski, whose shot slipped underneath Kiprusoff.
“Last night they got a couple on us,” Pavelski said. “Getting the first goal was big. We were able to build on the lead and hang onto it.”
Calgary then took its long string of penalties, keeping San Jose on the power play for 9:52 in the second period, including two full minutes of a fruitless 5-on-3 advantage. Mitchell finally scored with 9 seconds left in the final power play, slapping home a rebound.
“That was a big goal,” Mitchell said of his first NHL playoff goal. “We had a bunch of power plays and we needed one. It was huge.”
San Jose then was hit with three straight penalties in about 10 minutes to open the third, but Nabokov and his penalty-killers stopped everything.
While the Flames were disappointed with the loss, they weren’t unhappy about going back to the Pengrowth Saddledome with a split.
“I think we’re happy with a split down here,” Regehr said. “Kipper has been phenomenal in the first two games — he’s the biggest reason we came out with a split. But he’s facing too much rubber, and we have to change that in Game 3.”