And, they weren’t good.
Johan Franzen(notes) scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period and Chris Osgood(notes) made 31 saves, helping the defending champions beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 Saturday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Replays of that moment had to haunt Fleury in the series opener.
Stuart simply dumped the puck behind Fleury and was rewarded with a fortunate carom that sent the puck off Fleury’s right skate and across the goal line in the first period.
“It’s kind of tough,” Fleury said. “Guy shoots and it misses the net, and it comes back pretty quick.”
“I knew it was there, but I’m not that flexible,” Osgood said. “I was kind of hoping for the best.”
Crosby was dumbfounded.
“I’ve never seen that before,” he said.
The Stanley Cup finals opener was full of reminders about last year.
“I don’t think there are going to be a whole lot of skill plays,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
He scored his first playoff goal by leaping to grab his own rebound, putting the puck on the ice and flipping it past Fleury.
“That was huge for us to get that insurance goal,” Lidstrom said.
Game 2 is Sunday night in Detroit.
“It’s good,” Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot said. “We don’t have to think long about it.”
The action, especially in the first period, matched the hype.
“When you’ve been here before, you know what to expect so you’re ready to start on time,” Babcock said.
End-to-end action, big hits such as Crosby’s left shoulder sending Henrik Zetterberg(notes) to the ice, scoring opportunities and a 1-1 score had to hold nontraditional viewers giving hockey a chance.
The Penguins didn’t need good fortune to tie it.
Malkin baited Stuart into trying to clear a puck off the boards and took advantage of the turnover with a slap shot that Osgood couldn’t control, leading to Ruslan Fedotenko’s(notes) backhander off the rebound.
Pittsburgh had a breakaway and two power plays in the first half of the second period, and had nothing to show for it.
Osgood got part of his glove on Malkin’s wrist shot on the breakaway, and Detroit’s penalty killers limited the Penguins to two shots on their first power play and none on their second.
“The goalie is the most important player every night,” Babcock said. “It’s hockey.”
Osgood had to make a pair of saves two-thirds of the way through the second, denying Miroslav Satan(notes) on a shot just outside of the crease after Malkin set him up beautifully and turning away Crosby’s backhander after a spectacular spin move.
Crosby and Malkin are running away with the postseason scoring race, but they know Detroit is different than any team they played in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“We expect it to be tight, and that’s the way it is,” Crosby said. “I thought we generated some good scoring chances. We just have to find a way to get a few more. We had a couple that didn’t go in, and maybe that was the difference.”
Detroit went ahead 2-1 in the final minute of the second period, scoring again off the boards and Fleury.
Rafalski shot bounced off the boards, Franzen got to the loose puck and flipped a backhander over and off Fleury and into the net.
It was Franzen’s his team-leading 11th goal of the playoffs and 24th in the postseason since the start of last year’s Stanley Cup run.
The Red Wings are shooting to be the first to repeat since they won back-to-back titles in 1997 and ’98, but their opposing coach says they’ve got work to do.
“This is a race to four,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “They’ve got one on us.”
Detroit was without Pavel Datsyuk(notes), an MVP finalist along with Malkin, a fellow Russian, because of a foot injury, but welcomed the return of Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson(notes). … Fleury finished with 27 saves. … Game 1 winner has won 54 of 69 finals series since 1939. … Detroit is an NHL-best 9-1 at home this postseason.