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Quick starts often define playoff outcomes

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT -- Nine minutes into Game 1, and Colorado’s Paul Stastny had already found the back of the net.  Joe Louis Arena was quiet and Red Wings’ fans were wondering what had just happened. The Avalanche appeared to be cruising, and then the bombs went off. When the dust settled, Colorado found themselves down 3-1 at the end of the first, visitors in a roaring Hockeytown environment.

The Wings rode their first period explosion to a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal, adding their final goal 1:13 into the second period. Detroit had not scored more than two goals in the opening segment of a playoff game since April 15, 2004 against Nashville.

“You have to adjust to it,” Stastny said. “You have to weather that storm, three goals against these guys are tough, but you have to forget about what happened in the first period and change your style for the second and third period. I thought we came out a different team, didn’t worry about the lead and just took it one goal at a time.”
Colorado has repeatedly shown fast starts in these playoffs, scoring the first goal in all seven games to date. However, they are only 4-3 in those games.

Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles said that falling in a hole in Hockeytown is a tough place to be, and that you have to try to stick to the fundamentals.

“It’s tough being down early, especially in this building,” Liles said. “It’s just a matter of that you have to stick with your game plan and what you feel is going to work, and the last period we were able to do that and kind of battle back into the game, being down that much that early is never an easy thing.”

Detroit center Kris Draper said that the first goal is always important, especially when you’re the visitors.

“There’s no doubt, any time you go into somebody else’s building you want to try to score first you want to try to take the fans out of the game,” he said. “I think the important thing last night was how fast we responded, by (Henrik Zetterberg) scoring right away, that’s something that’s important once you fall behind 1-0; you want to answer right away.

“You always want to have good starts. You always want to get that first goal, especially when you’re on the road.”

Johan Franzen, the first star of Game 1 after a two goal and one assist performance, said the game opens up when there’s a big lead looming on the scoreboard.

“Yeah, you have to stick to your game plan, and that’s hard to do when its 4-1, you shouldn’t do it but you probably take some more chances in the defensive zone, don’t get the third guy coming back,” he said. “They were leaving guys high and taking some chances as well, and we didn’t have our guys back, so they had a couple 3-on-2 chances that they weren’t able to capitalize on.” 

Liles said that the Avs will try to build off the positive finish in Game 1 when they return to Joe Louis Arena for Saturday’s second game of the best-of-seven series.

“We’re just going to try to play the second half of the game for the entire game,” Liles said. “I think that’s a big key for us, obviously we had some success with that and we’re going to continue to try to play that way.”

GAMES NOTES: Colorado’s Peter Forsberg and Wojtek Wolski were no-shows at Friday’s practice. Forsberg missed Game 1 due to a groin injury, while Wolski left during the first period with an upper body injury. Avs coach Joel Quenneville said that Wolski will be out indefinitely, and that Forsberg is a game-time decision for Saturday’s game.  Quenneville also said goaltender Jose Theodore, who left for the team hotel after being pulled during Game 1 due to illness, will be ready for Game 2.

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