The Detroit Red Wings got all the bounces on Saturday night and have a 1-0 series lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final.
Detroit scored two of their goals on bounces off the end boards and ended up beating Pittsburgh 3-1 at Joe Louis Arena. Both teams will get back at it on Sunday in Game 2.
"We never thought this was going to be easy, especially coming in here first and playing in their building," said Bill Guerin. "We know it's going to be tough. Tomorrow night's a new night."
It was a chippy game with both teams throwing their weight around. The game went back-and-forth and Detroit came within a post of opening the scoring very early as Henrik Zetterberg rang a shot off the iron behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Zetterberg and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby battled each other throughout the game.
"Early on Crosby really tried to take it physically to Zetterberg, but as the game went along, Zetterberg started to assert himself," explained NHL on TSN's Bob McKenzie. "I thought Crosby played a very good hockey game in a lot of ways, but at the end of the night it was Zetterberg who came away the winner."
Zetterberg held a slight advantage in ice time at 22:48, compared to Crosby's 22:35, but he dominated in faceoffs. Zetterberg won 15 of 20 to Crosby's 6 of 20.
Red Wings' captain Nicklas Lidstrom led all skaters playing just over 24 minutes.
Brad Stuart opened the game's scoring on an odd goal with just over six minutes to go in the first. The Wings defenceman took a shot from the point that bouced off the end boards and then bounced in off the back of Fleury's pad to give the Wings a 1-0 lead.
"I just tried to get it in," explained Stuart. "Stuff happens, it's a game of bounces. We got the win but it's a quick turnaround and we've got to get after them again tomorrow."
The Penguins struck back a few minutes later when Malkin picked off a Stuart clearing attempt and fed Ruslan Fedotenko in front of the Red Wings' goal. Fedotenko beat Chris Osgood to even the score at 1-1 late in the period.
The Penguins came out flying in the second with several scoring chances early. Evgeni Malkin had a breakaway early in the period, but Osgood made the stop to keep the score tied.
Lidstrom spoke about the lift that Osgood's save gave the team.
"It gives our team a boost. And especially that moment of the game," Lidstrom said. "The momentum could have swung in their favor. So he came out big. He came out big on other occasions later in the game, too. "
The veteran goaltender was tested again with the Penguins on the powerplay minutes later as a shot by Sergei Gonchar bounced off the end boards and back out on front. There was a scrum around the net, but the puck was knocked away.
The Red Wings took back the lead late in the second on another lucky bounce. Johan Franzen took control of a puck off the end board, flicking it off Fleury and into the net.
While the boards helped the Wings in Game 1, head coach Mike Babcock revealed that the team was prepared for the strange bounces.
"Well, in the morning skate they were out there working on banking off them. I mean, they've played here before," Babcock said. "You know, I guess it's like anything. Every building you go to there are little nuances, and you try to take advantage of them the best you possibly can. So tonight we got some breaks, but I always believe when you're at the net you've got a chance to get some breaks."
"It's amazing. It makes the game even quicker," Crosby said following the loss. "Just when you think the game is quick, and you see the bounces that the boards have. I mean, for goalies, for defense, for everybody, they're pretty tough to read. So it makes things a little quicker.
"They got a couple of bounces tonight, and hopefully we'll get ours back."
"It can be frustrating but you just have to work at it," said Osgood about the play of the end boards. "I just try to get back at my post as soon as possible."
Detroit closed the scoring three minutes into the third as Justin Abdelkader grabbed his own rebound out of the air, dropped it down to his stick and sent a shot over Fleury to make it 3-1. It was the rookie's first NHL goal.
Pittsburgh pulled Fleury with well over a minute to go in the third, but could not get anything going against Osgood and the Wings. The three-time Stanley Cup champion (1997, 1998 and 2008) made 31 saves on the night and notched his 13th win of the 2009 playoffs. Fleury stopped 27 in the loss.
While Osgood did not have a strong regular season, he has been sharp in the playoffs with a 2.00 GAA and .928 save percentage.
"In the second period, when the Penguins started to pressure Osgood, that was when he was at his absolute best. He makes the saves he has to make and never seems to get flustered," said NHL on TSN's Ray Ferraro.
Frustration started to show for the Penguins late in the game as Crosby gave Wings' forward Kirk Maltby a tap with his stick.
"[Maltby] was doing what he always does. He was giving guys lip service and things like that. I two handed him on top of the foot there as we were skating by," said Crosby. "He felt like it was necessary to keep talking after the game, and I thought I'd whack him and that was it."
Last season the Red Wings taught the upstart Penguins a playoff lesson by shutting them out in the first two games on the way to winning the series in six and capturing the 11th Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The Penguins are coming off a convincing sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final and have the top two scorers in the postseason. Crosby (14 G, 14 A) and Malkin (12 G, 16 A) are tied as the top playoff scoring leaders with 28 points each heading into Game 1. The Pens used seven defencemen against the Red Wings in Game 1.
The Red Wings dominated the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, taking the series in five games, but entered the Cup final with some injury issues. Pavel Datsyuk and Kris Draper both sat out Game 1.