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Line matching shuts down Pens' scorers

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he wanted to have his top line of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom against Sidney Crosby’s line, and he certainly followed through.

For Crosby’s first three shifts of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday, the top Detroit line kept up with Crosby, Pascal Dupuis and Marian Hossa.

The Wings mixed defensive coverage on the Penguins’ top two lines, as well, using Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, and Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart against the Crosby and Evgeni Malkin lines.

The Red Wings’ 4-0 win Saturday at Joe Louis Arena was only the second time in the playoffs that the opposition held the Penguins off the scoreboard.

Detroit held the Crosby line to eight combined shots, and held the Malkin, Ryan Malone and Petr Sykora line to two.
“Well, we wanted to play Zetterberg, and then we didn't   it didn't matter to us as much against the other guys,” Babcock said. “Zetterberg against Crosby, and then we thought we'd play (Kris) Draper or (Valtteri) Filppula against Malkin, depending on what worked best. And (Jordan) Staal. … Like I said earlier this morning, you can have all these theories, but until you get player-against-player and you figure out the face off and figure out the speed of the players, you don't know for sure.
“I thought we had a good effort from our groups tonight. So I wasn't as concerned. And we were able to get our people, on and off the ice, I thought, fairly quickly, which is positive for us.”

Detroit forward Dan Cleary said that the talent of both teams showed, even with the lopsided Wings’ victory.

“These guys are such good players, they almost saw each other off,” Cleary said. “Really, they're so talented, both sides have great players. Tonight I thought that Pav and Z created a lot of offense. I thought Crosby was good, Malkin, good players, but I believe that the depth on both teams is going to be the difference.”

Crosby said he felt both lines shut each other down in the contest.

“I probably had some chances early on, and they played tight,” Crosby said. “I don’t think they had a lot against us either. I think both lines did a pretty good job of battling and limiting chances, but on the goals that they scored, really, we just made a few mistakes.”

PAVEL’S A HIT: The Red Wings came out looking to impose their will on Pittsburgh, and an unlikely source led the way.

Datsyuk, listed at 5-foot-11 and 194-pounds, led the Wings with six hits in Game 1. Kirk Maltby had four, and Tomas Holmstrom added three.

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall did what he does best in Game 1 – delivering open ice hits.  He first found Jordan Staal in the opening moments of Saturday’s contest, but only got a piece of the Penguins center. He made up for it later in the period when he flattened power forward Ryan Malone.

Kronwall finished with three hits.

The Red Wings out-hit Pittsburgh, 31-25.

“That’s playoff hockey,” Crosby said. “I don’t expect it to be easy and skate around there freely. That’s hockey. And I expect that and that’s part of the game, and I don’t think that’s changed.”

SURVIVING THE FIRST: Game 1 was scoreless after the first period. But it wasn’t easy.

The Wings committed four penalties in the first, including a goaltender interference call on Holmstrom that waived off a goal by Lidstrom.

Pittsburgh out-shot the Red Wings, 12-11, in the opening period, with Chris Osgood making big saves on Hossa and stopping a bouncing puck off Lidstrom from finding its way to the back of the net.

The second period was a different story. Detroit stayed out of the penalty box, and out-shot the Penguins, 16-4. Mikael Samuelsson recorded an unassisted goal at the 13:01 mark, and from that point forward, it was all Red Wings.

Osgood said that the turnaround led with the discussion in the locker room after the first period.

“Stay out of the penalty box, for starters,” Osgood said. “We were in there way too much in the first period. After that, I thought we didn’t turn pucks over as much as we did in the first. That’s why we got the penalties. We got pucks deep when we grind their D. Sometimes things don’t happen right away. You don’t reap the rewards until later.”

Babcock said that while the Wings played good, they got the bounces and breaks needed to win.

“I think they're an excellent, excellent hockey club and I think they're scary,” he said. “We had some puck luck on the first penalty kills. Ozzie made some real good saves.  But the game can be totally different, and then we score first. And it seemed to be a big thing that got going. So to answer your question is maybe if they score first, maybe it's different that way for them.”

Penguins center Max Talbot said the Red Wings forced the Penguins to play out of their comfort level in the final two periods.

“Definitely we came out flat in the second,” Talbot said. “You have to give them credit, they came out hard and forced us to get away from our game.”

LEGENDARY FACE OFF: For about two minutes, Penguins and Red Wings fans alike cheered in unison as two legends kicked off the Stanley Cup finals with a ceremonial puck drop before Game 1.

Detroit’s former captain Steve Yzerman and the Penguins’ Mario Lemieux joined at center ice after the national anthem to each drop a puck.

After dropping the pucks between Lidstrom and Crosby, the two icons shook hands with the two current captains and hugged before retreating.

NO MORE PLASTIC: Tonight was the first time in a long time for Cleary to skate without a plastic shield covering his chin. The right winger broke his jaw against the Maple Leafs on Feb. 9, and missed 19 games before returning on March 25.

Cleary scored the Red Wings’ third goal in Game 1, a short-handed tally with three minutes remaining.

“It feels good,” he said. “I felt really good without the shield on. I felt real comfortable with the puck and holding the puck and any corner work and things like that. It's always good to score and help the club out.”

BASEBALL FANS: The Detroit Tigers wore red hats during batting practice before its baseball game against Minnesota at Comerica Park.

The hats must have worked for the Tigers, too, who throttled  the Twins, 19-3.
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