DETROIT, MI —Rolling, not rusty.
The Detroit Red Wings looked as sharp as they have throughout the playoffs— and perhaps in any postseason—jumping out to a big lead and beating the Dallas Stars 4-1 Thursday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Detroit played for the first time since sweeping the Colorado Avalanche a week earlier.
“They were scared, just like the coaches, that they wouldn’t be ready,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “A little fear never hurt anybody.”
Dallas, meanwhile, looked tired.
The Stars advanced past the San Jose Sharks in one of the longest games in NHL history—ending Monday morning in a fourth overtime—after playing three other OT games in the series.
“Whether it’s fatigue or whatever, we just weren’t at the level we needed to be,” coach Dave Tippett said.
Johan Franzen, Brian Rafalski and Tomas Holmstrom scored power-play goals for Detroit, which led by four in the second period before coasting to its seventh win in a row.
Nicklas Lidstrom helped Detroit win three Stanley Cup titles between 1997-2002 and said these Red Wings are as dominant as ever.
“It’s been a balanced scoring and strong team defense,” Lidstrom said. “I think it’s very comparable to some of the teams we had back in the ’90s.”
After Valtteri Filppula put the top-seeded Red Wings ahead 4-0, Brenden Morrow scored with a minute left in the second period to prevent the fifth-seeded Stars from getting shut out.
“We had a good two or three shifts to start the game,” Morrow said. “But then the ice got tilted the other way.”
Game 2 is Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, where Stars goalie Marty Turco is 0-8-2 in his NHL career.
Turco, who made 27 saves, was serenaded with jeers of “Turrr-co! Turrr-co!” by fans early and often.
But Tippett tried to deflect blame for the blowout.
“A lot had to do with the team in front of him,” he said.
Detroit’s Chris Osgood turned away 20 shots, improving to 7-0 as a starter since replacing Dominik Hasek in Game 4 against Nashville.
Dallas upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round and then topped the second-seeded Sharks after starting both series with two road wins.
The way the Franzen-led Red Wings are playing, they’re going to be tough to beat in any rink.
“I’m not worried about how the Red Wings played. I’m worried about how we played,” Tippett said. “That’s a game that wasn’t even close to the games we played in the playoffs.”
Franzen’s 12th goal extended his team postseason scoring record, and the player known as Mule matched another club mark by finding the net for a fifth straight game. Gordie Howe pulled off the feat in 1949 and ‘64. Ted Lindsay scored in five consecutive games in 1952.
“I don’t think about those records right now, maybe I’ll look back on it after the season or when I quit playing,” Franzen said. “I don’t want to be mentioned with them. I still want to look at myself as a hard worker out there.”
Franzen has 15 points in 11 playoff games, tying Jaromir Jagr of the already-eliminated New York Rangers.
The Red Wings were so superior in the first two periods it appeared that they had a man advantage in even-strength situations. They also created scoring chances while killing penalties.
“It looked like we lacked a little emotion or jump we had in the other series,” Turco said.
The Stars struggled to skate with Detroit, leading to early hooking and holding penalties that were costly.
With Detroit enjoying a two-man advantage, Rafalski scored 4:28 into the game after a shot by Lidstrom caromed off the post directly to him at the point.
“We hung him out to dry with the 5-on-3,” Morrow said.
Franzen and Holmstrom both scored by standing in front and redirecting shots past Turco.
“It makes me happy that I’m at my end,” Osgood said. “I couldn’t see Marty in the net, there were so many guys in front, doing a great job of tipping pucks.”
Detroit showed it could score at even strength, too, when two long passes set up Filppula to flick in a shot.
“It’s been a week and we were really anxious to get back into playing,” Lidstrom said. “Keeping a lot of focus on that and talking a lot about it I think really helped the team to set the tone early on.”