PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; Red Wings lead 1-0.
Manny Legace overcame the butterflies. Now he has to shake off the cobwebs.
A day after being dazed in practice, Legace hopes to solidify his status as the Detroit Red Wings’ top goaltender for the playoffs and prevent the Nashville Predators from evening this quarterfinal series at one game apiece.
“I had butterflies,” the career backup acknowledged.
Legace was perfect following the shaky start, stopping the next 23 shots he faced as Detroit won 3-1.
“I think it helps him a lot, knowing he’s got that first win,” Red Wings veteran defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Legace is expected to start Game 2 despite leaving practice Friday after being hit on his mask by a puck. Coach Dave Lewis said tests were negative.
“I asked him if he was all right and he seemed to be OK,” teammate Kirk Maltby said. “He left smiling.”
While Legace had just 10 minutes of playoff experience before Wednesday’s victory, Joseph has played in 10 different postseasons. The ankle injury forced Joseph to miss the final seven games of the regular season and 20 of the last 25.
Though he feels healthy enough to play, Joseph’s status for the series remains uncertain, especially if Legace continues to play at a high level.
Legace’s performance, along with goals by Tomas Holmstrom and Kris Draper early in the third period, helped the Red Wings win their playoff opener for the first time in three years. They were swept by Anaheim in last season’s first round, a year after losing their first two games to Vancouver before going on to win their 10th Stanley Cup.
“It’s good to win the first game of the series obviously, and to win the first game at home after we stumbled around here the last two years,” Lewis said.
The Predators were not discouraged by losing the first postseason game in franchise history.
“For our first playoff experience, I think we handled it pretty well,” coach Barry Trotz said.
“We were pretty relaxed. We’ve got nothing to lose.”
The Predators likely need production from wingers Scott Walker and Steve Sullivan to return home with the series tied. Walker and Sullivan, the only Nashville forwards who got more than 20 minutes of ice time Wednesday, had no points and a combined five shots on goal.
That duo combined for 140 points during the regular season.
Nashville will be without defenseman Marek Zidlicky after he suffered an upper body injury when he was checked into the boards by Maltby early in Game 1. Zidlicky, third on the team during the regular season with 53 points, will be replaced on the Predators’ No. 1 power-play unit by rookie Dan Hamhuis or Sergei Zholtok.
“We think he is going to play in this series,” general manager David Poile said. “The opposition has been known to go after a guy any way to get an advantage, and we don’t want to put Marek at risk.”
The teams have a quick turnaround for Game 3, which is Sunday afternoon in Nashville.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Predators - 91 points, 8th seed. Red Wings - 109 points, 1st seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Hall, 1 goal; Scott Hartnell and Greg Johnson, 1 assist; five tied with 2 PIM. Red Wings - Holmstrom, Draper and Robert Lang, 1 goal; Maltby, 2 assists; Lang and Maltby, 2 points; Draper, Steve Thomas and Brett Hull, 2 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Predators - Power play: 0 percent (0 for 3). Penalty killing: 100 percent (5 for 5). Red Wings - Power play: 0 percent (0 for 5), 5th. Penalty killing: 100 percent (3 for 3).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Predators, 3-2-0-1. Detroit scored 13 goals in winning the last three matchups. Vokoun was pulled in two of those three after allowing just six goals on 79 shots in the first three games. Joseph went 2-3 with a 2.21 GAA in five starts, while Legace allowed one goal in winning his lone outing against Nashville. The Wings’ Brendan Shanahan had five goals and two assists in the series, while no Predator had more than two goals.