The Wings pulled out a 3-1 win over the Predators in a game that had many Wings fans, myself included, worried for long stretches of play. The Predators had noticeably more jump for much of the game and generally looked to be the only team of the two who realized it was the first game of the playoffs. As was the case many times in the regular season, Manny Legace kept the Wings alive when they were down and gave them the chance they needed to get a very important win.
Things did not start out well for the Wings. Just sixteen seconds into the game, Adam Hall scored off the rebound of a Greg Johnson shot. Johnson had received the puck from Scott Hartnell, who was behind the net, and Manny obviously made the initial save. Hall picked up the loose pick and slammed it into the net with Legace on his back. It was more of a defensive breakdown than anything else. Definitely not Manny’s fault.
Things went further wrong when Steve Sullivan was given a penalty shot 1:15 later. The call was very questionable in my mind because Sullivan got a shot off on the initial play. He missed of course but I really thought he had very little case for a penalty shot. The refs gave it to him anyway. Luckily, he shot it wide and allowed 20,000+ people to breath and have heart beats again.
The Wings got their first shot three minutes into the game and it wasn’t all that threatening. Just a bad angle shot from the right wing that was an easy save by Vokoun. They were not putting on a lot of pressure and were mostly reeling from the Preds early jump start.
About four minutes into the game, Maltby laid a huge hit on Marek Zidlicky behind the net. I thought that would get the Wings pumped up and it did but only for a few minutes. They got a power play but that only lasted about 50 seconds or so before Brett Hull was called for holding Scott Walker. The call really should have been a dive on Walker and 5-on-3 power play for the Wings but the refs decided not to see that. Fortunately, nothing happened on the 4-on-4 and the Wings killed off the Preds’ short power play, though they faced some strong pressure. Derian Hatcher got away with a pretty nasty slash when he two-handed Jeremy Stevenson in front of the net. Stevenson had to get himself off the ice using one leg and left the game. Nice to see Hatcher doing something in front of the net for once, even if it only lasted about .02 seconds and how he did it was illegal. It would have been even nicer to see Derian use his size to clear the net rather than commit such a cheapshot as though he had no other option. Manny had guys in his face the rest of the game.
Manny Legace made a huge save on Martin Erat at about 10:30 off a fumbled play by the Wings defense. The save was at least the turning point of the period because the Wings really came on for the second half of the first 20 minutes. They had a good shift by the Whitney-Yzerman-Zetterberg line immediately after that and then drew a penalty at 11:34. They were unable to convert, however, even though Brett Hull got off a great shot and was robbed by Vokoun. It may have been going wide but it still was a good chance. Some time after that, Ray Whitney and Tomas Holmstrom went on a 2-on-1 in which Ray shot the puck but Vokoun stoned him.
The Wings got another power play at 16:32 and had a good chance off the first shot but got nothing else for the rest of the time. Sullivan had a big chance shorthanded and used it to try a wraparound. He sent the puck through the crease and just out the other side. Pretty scary though.
Overall, the Predators outplayed the Wings for the majority of the period. The Wings gave up too many good chances and were fortunate they didn’t go down by more than a goal. Shots were 9-8 Wings.
The Preds got a power play 14 seconds into the period when Kris Draper broke Greg Johnson’s easily breakable and extremely expensive graphite stick with a slash. The Wings killed it off and got some good pressure after though nothing real materialized. They continued giving up good scoring chances as well and fortunately nothing materialized for the Preds either.
The Wings were sloppy on offense, sending passes just out of reach of teammates and just generally not connecting. There wasn’t a whole lot of fire, in my opinion. When they’d actually stumble upon a chance, Vokoun was always there to make the save.
The Wings got a power play when David Legwand fell on Manny Legace but couldn’t convert. They had some good chances, including one where Zetterberg came in on his own but was stoned by Vokoun once again. The other chances they had on the power play almost happened but the Preds were always poking the puck away just in time to disrupt it enough that the Wings couldn’t complete it. That, quite frankly, got extremely annoying.
The rest of the period was pretty much back and forth play with both teams getting some chances and both goalies making the necessary stops. Shots were 11-9 Preds.
Kris Draper scored at 0:37 right off a Preds power play to make it 1-1. He took a pass from Maltby right up the middle, split the defense and came in on Vokoun from the left circle before shooting the puck through the five-hole. Vokoun was not happy at all for giving up such a goal, that’s for sure. It was nice to see that he wasn’t going to turn out to be like JS Giguere, at least in Game 1.
The Wings scored again a little over four minutes later at 4:55 after Robert Lang put in a great personal effort and got the puck to Mathieu Schneider who got it on net where it was deflected by Holmstrom past Vokoun to make it 2-1 Wings. The puck completely changed direction and caught Vokoun moving to his left. Standard Homer goal. The Wings followed that up with some strong pressure and finally began looking like the team we know and love.
The Preds came on at about the halfway mark of the period and started looking like they thought they could lose the game. They gave the Wings a power play at 11:33 and had to withstand sustained pressure throughout the full two minutes but the held the Wings off. With four minutes left, they were applying some serious pressure but the Wings were able to keep them from getting back in the game. Maltby had a great defensive shift with about three minutes left and was instrumental in maintaining the lead.
Robert Lang ended the scoring at 18:15 with one of the most amazing personal efforts I’ve seen in years. He won a footrace to the puck with the Preds defenseman and then, with that player all over his back, went in on the net. He got himself free and almost fell down but managed to deke Vokoun out of his pants before hitting the ice as he sent the puck into the net. It was an amazing goal. Absolutely amazing. Update: Here is a short video of it, if you missed it.
Vokoun was pulled for the extra man after that but didn’t stay out for long and the game ended with the Wings on top in the series 1-0. Shots in the third were 11-5 Wings for a total of 29-24 Wings.
… The Wings have played 2,031 playoff games between them, the most of any current playoff team … Manny had just 11 minutes of playoff experience before tonight’s game, Vokoun had none … Lang made up for having a set of cement hands in the third period with some great puckhandling on his goal … The Wings won 22 of 26 faceoffs in the first period. It would have been nice to have seen them use that puck possession a little better then, though … Holmstrom’s goal was his 25th playoff goal … Manny gave up a goal on the first shot he faced in his appearance in the 2002 playoffs against the Blues. He made the first save tonight but gave up a goal on the rebound. You’re making progress Manny! …
Here is the box score.
4 on 4-