They’re breathing a lot easier in the Motor City tonight, but for forty minutes the fans at the Joe must have been thinking here we go again. The heavily favoured Red Wings struggled in the first two frames of tonight’s playoff opener, as a surprising Nashville team kept them tied up and frustrated for two periods of play.
Sixteen seconds into the game the Predators lived up to their name, stalking Manny Legace in his first playoff start, scoring an ugly but quick goal by Adam Hall to knock the Wings back on their heels for a bit. The folks in Hockeytown got another little scare at the two minute mark when Steve Sullivan received a penalty shot off of a Chris Chelios hook, shooting wide Sullivan gave the Detroit faithful an opportunity to breathe again.
Tomas Vokoun brought back bad dreams of J. S.Giguere with his play through the first two periods, turning aside chance after chance for the Wings. But with 37 seconds gone in the third, Kris Draper finally gave the Detroit fans a reason to get on their feet, putting the first goal behind Vokoun, Tomas Holstrom scored four minutes later and the Wings were back in control. Robert Lang salted away the win in the last two minutes of play.
For Nashville it was a quick learning curve, but Coach Barry Trotz can point out to their fast start and ability to keep the pace in the game as something to build on. Detroit coach Dave Lewis, probably felt a lot better by the end of the game than he did at the start, chalking up his first ever playoff victory as a head coach. For Detroit the sooner they can put the Predators away the better, there were too many similar aspects to the game tonight to the upset games of last year with Anaheim. With the 3-1 win under their belt, Detroit will want to put their stamp on the series in game two, expect them to try to get to Vokoun early and often. Making sure that the normally loud and enthusiastic Joe Louis crowd has many opportunities to exercise their vocal cords.