Phil Coffey | NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director
DETROIT – When the Pittsburgh Penguins say they didn't get the bounces in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, they will be telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
When the Detroit Red Wings say they took advantage of the breaks provided by home-ice advantage in their 3-1 victory in Game 1 on Saturday night, they will be equally truthful.
In a game that perfectly illustrated the slippery nature of hockey, the Red Wings took advantage of the breaks presented to them -- especially the lively end boards at Joe Louis Arena -- and the Pens could only shake their heads at the numerous chances that defied logic and stayed out of the net.
"We have to get goals like that," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It wasn't a clean game. There wasn't a lot of space out there."
"It just kind of happened in the last two years, really," Wings goalie Chris Osgood said of the crazy caroms off the backboards. "It's tough for goalies. They're scoring lots in the regular season on them. Especially if it comes off one side and out the other, you're pretty much left defenseless. It can be frustrating, but you've got to work them the best you can.
"For me, I just try to get back to my post as quick as I can," Osgood said. "And sometimes it just has to do with getting a good bounce, and it doesn't come back in front of somebody's stick. I had a few in the third that went right back in front and went on our stick instead of theirs.
"They definitely are dangerous, and tonight they bounced our way."
They certainly didn't go the Penguins' way.
"It's amazing," Sidney Crosby said of the bounces off the boards. "It makes the game that much quicker. It's tough to read. They got a couple bounces tonight and hopefully we'll get a couple.
"We expected it to be tight," he added. "I mean, that's the way it is. I thought we generated some pretty good scoring chances. Our line, I think we've got to find a way to get a few more. But they're a good hockey team, and you've got to execute when you get them. We had a couple that didn't go in, and maybe that's the difference. But it's tight hockey, and we've got to expect that."
Brad Stuart, Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader scored for the Wings, who are now 9-1 at home in these playoffs. Ruslan Fedotenko scored Pittsburgh's lone goal.
None of the four goals fell into the "beautiful" category -- all came off turnovers. But with a win now tucked away, the Red Wings can look at the goals as masterpieces.
Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was victimized on two goals that came off the lively end boards. In the first, Rob Scuderi was unable to get the puck out of the zone and Wings defenseman Brad Stuart fired a shot from the left side that caromed off the boards, caught Fleury flat-footed, and deflected into the net off the back of his leg at 13:38.
The boards came into play again when Detroit took a 2-1 lead after two periods. Henrik Zetterberg gained possession in a scrum on the left wing boards and passed back to Brian Rafalski at the point. He moved in and fired a shot that slammed off the end boards and caromed to Franzen. He backhanded the puck into the slot, where it deflected off the sprawling left leg of Fleury and into the net at 19:02.
Pens coach Dan Bylsma was reluctant to criticize Fleury.
"That's something they were better at than we were," he said. "It's something that if the shooting lanes are blocked, you should be putting the puck there because you know it's going to come right back out. They capitalized on that tonight. It was good plays by them."
"I wasn't a very good goalie," Fleury said. "It's just the situation in this building where you know that pucks are coming off the backboards quickly. We're aware of it. We practiced it and they got some fortunate breaks off it tonight.
Not to be outdone, Osgood mishandled a rebound and then left a wide-open net for Fedotenko to backhand home a rebound at 18:37 of the first. As was the case in all the goals, the Wings couldn't clear the puck, allowing Evgeni Malkin to get off a shot from the left circle that Osgood stopped, breaking his stick in the process. The rebound came down just out of his reach and Fedotenko just beat Niklas Kronwall to the loose puck and scored to tie the game 1-1.
The Wings got an insurance goal at 2:46 of the third when Abdelkader took advantage of another bad bounce for the Penguins. After a save by Fleury, the puck went into the air and Jordan Staal, jousting with Abdelkader, lost sight of it. The Wings' rookie didn't, moving around Staal and then ripping a shot to Fleury's long side. It was Abdelkader's first career playoff goal.
There won't be much time for the Wings to celebrate or the Pens to lick their wounds as Game 2 is Sunday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).
"They're a good hockey team, and you've got to execute when you get them. We had a couple that didn't go in, and maybe that's the difference. But it's tight hockey, and we've got to expect that." -- Sidney Crosby on Game 1"We did some good things. We can do a better job," Bylsma said. "It's good for us to get right back at it."
Babcock also saw some areas that need shoring up in his team's game, so a fast return to the ice may be best for both squads.
"I didn't think we were too good in the neutral zone, we had too many turnovers," Babcock said. "Tonight we got some breaks. I thought Crosby looked very determined. When you've been here before, you know what to expect. They were very competitive."
Late in the second period, the Penguins knew they were vulnerable after a Hal Gill icing, so Dan Bylsma called timeout to give the Sidney Crosby line a rest. But Henrik Zetterberg won the offensive-zone faceoff to sustain the pressure. Then, Johan Franzen took the body to force Bill Guerin into a turnover. Defenseman Rob Scuderi blocked Brian Rafalski's ensuing shot, but Rafalski got it right back and fired wide, allowing Franzen to flip a backhander that banked off the leg of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net.
Detroit center Darren Helm, the overtime hero in the clinching game of the Western Conference Final just three nights ago, was an impact player all night. He delivered a team-high eight hits. He also dominated in the faceoff circle throughout the game and had a very dangerous breakaway early in the third period.
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, not known for his physical play, delivered one of the biggest hits of the night midway through the first period, delivering a clean shoulder hit to Henrik Zetterberg at center ice. He had three hits in the first two periods and went down and stacked his pads to block a shot late in the second period.
The Red Wings dominated in the faceoff circle throughout the game. Detroit finished with a 69 percent success rate, winning 39 of the 56 draws. Helm and Zetterberg were the most dominant of the Red Wings, while Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal was the biggest victim.
Detroit's third goal came off the stick of Justin Abdelkader at the 2:46 mark of the third period. It was the first playoff goal by the rookie in eight appearances this spring. Abdelkader has just four games of regular-season experience under his belt. Abdelkader, hailing from Muskegon, Mich., had played just four shifts Saturday night before scoring his goal, a rebound shot into the far corner.
--Shawn P. Roarke