DETROIT -- After two straight losses in Nashville to even the Western Conference quarterfinal series, Detroit coach Mike Babcock decided it was time to change the man between the pipes. Fortunately for Babcock, the backup for the Red Wings is a Stanley Cup winner and the starting goalie for the Western Conference in this year’s All-Star game.
Chris Osgood stood guard in Detroit’s crease for Game 5, his first playoff start in a Red Wings sweater since April 23, 2001. However, the Hockeytown atmosphere should feel like home for Ozzie; he leads all active goaltenders in games played, wins, and shutouts at Joe Louis Arena.
After Dominik Hasek gave up seven goals in two losses in Nashville, the starting job in front of the Red Wings’ net is Osgood’s to lose. Here’s how he did:
First period: Hockeytown gave Osgood a standing ovation when his name was called during the starting lineup announcements. According to the official score sheet, Osgood made eight saves in the first, which seemed to be a generous count for the Predators. His first true shot came four minutes into the game, with a shot fired right into his stomach. Osgood faced one penalty kill in the first, and the Wings allowed only one shot. The 35-year-old netminder showed he still knows how to move the puck behind the net, which aided the Red Wings’ breakout.
Second period: Osgood was able to catch his breath in the second period, where he only faced three shots. With Detroit controlling the play (out-shooting the Predators, 20-3), Osgood didn’t have much to do. However, he did have a small duel with Nashville’s Radek Bonk who had two scoring chances in the second. Early in the second, Bonk grabbed a shot from the point, and nearly wrapped it around Osgood, who was down to make the initial play. Bonk misfired however, sliding it through the crease from right to left and missing an open net. Minutes later, it was Bonk again, when he fielded a rebound off the end boards and fired it towards the Detroit net. Osgood slid across the crease from right to left and sealed his pads to keep Bonk’s wrister from finding its way across the goal line. The Predators’ only power play was killed off successfully by the Red Wings again, not allowing a single shot to get through to Osgood.
Third period: Osgood got his nose dirty two minutes into the third, freezing the puck and getting knocked on the head by former University of Michigan standout Josh Langfeld. Nine minutes into the period, he directed a Vernon Fiddler wrist shot into the corner with his blocker; not a spectacular save, but he showed good rebound control. Two minutes later, Osgood made the initial stop on a scrum in front, and his defense bailed him out when they fired it out of the zone. The play sparked the first ‘Ozzie’ chant of the game.
Osgood’s bid for a shutout ended with 44-seconds left when Bonk finally beat him, tying the game with a snap-shot one timer from the left side of the slot. J.P. Dumont found Bonk from behind the net, and Bonk fired the puck top shelf, up over Osgood’s glove. Overtime: Osgood was tested right off the opening face-off, when Jerred Smithson let loose a slapshot from the left point, and Osgood made a good toe save. A few moments later, Franzen scored on a breakaway to end the game.
Analysis: Osgood played well, but the real story was the Detroit defense that only allowed 21 shots – including one on three Predators’ power plays -- get through to the Red Wings goaltender. Detroit had 53 shots on goal.
“I thought he was good,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Osgood. “When the other guy is standing on his head and you’re not getting any opportunities to make save, it’s tough to be the hero; it’s easy to be the goat. I thought he did a real good job, showed his experience and gave us an opportunity to win.”