Red Wings roll over Blue Jackets in opener
It took the Columbus Blue Jackets eight years to reach their first Stanley Cup playoffs, but less than a minute for them to relinquish the lead for good in a debut loss to the defending champions.
Deadlocked at 1-1, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall scored 48 seconds apart in the second period as the host Detroit Red Wings rolled to a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarter-final at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night.
Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen each had a goal and an assist for the second-ranked Red Wings, seeking to repeat as champions for the first time since 1997 and 1998.
Mikael Samuelsson had two assists.
"Everyone is a little bit nervous first game, and it is good to get into it," Franzen said. "I think we started taking over in the second [period] and got our legs going a little bit… and, after a while, we got the goals."
R.J. Umberger tallied for the seventh-seeded Blue Jackets, who set franchise highs in wins (41), points (92) and goals scored (226) to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since entering the NHL in 2000-01.
"One thing that was a bit of a concern was guys being overwhelmed," Blue Jackets defenceman Mike Commodore said. "We were in a tough building, but we came out and played on even terms with them."
Rookie Steve Mason faced 34 shots compared with 21 for Red Wings netminder Chris Osgood, a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
"We leave here with it being a game apiece and that will be a good accomplishment," Mason said. "We did a lot of good things in the first period and we have to build off that.
"We kind of got away from the game plan in the second and third periods, but we know what we did wrong. Everyone in this dressing room knows we can do better."
'From there, it was all downhill'
Mason, who led the NHL this season with 10 shutouts, made one sensational save after another to keep the Red Wings off the scoresheet until Hudler tallied 10:48 into the second period.
Umberger scored 52 seconds later on the forecheck as he knocked the puck off Kronwall's stick to linemate Jakub Voracek, who fed him at the top of the crease for a backhand shot that eluded Osgood.
"From there on, it was all downhill," Mason said.
Ericsson put the Red Wings ahead 2-1 with his first playoff goal at 14:21, scoring on a shot from the point that Blue Jackets forward Manny Malhotra tried to snatch with his glove and instead redirected into the net.
"I saw the shot all the way and I wanted to grab it, but I didn't get enough of it, obviously," Malhotra said.
Forty-eight seconds later, Blue Jackets defenceman Jan Hejda lifted his right leg to stop Kronwall's slapshot, only to deflect into the net behind a screened Mason.
"We have made that mistake before and it cost us the same way," Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That is an easy, simple save for Mason."
"The way they're playing, everyone is playing goal and trying to block shots," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock observed. "You can block a lot of shots, but it also ends up going off you sometimes."
Detroit went ahead 4-1 when Henrik Zetterberg flicked the puck behind the net with one hand to Franzen, who stuffed it in the short side 2:54 into the third period.
"The fourth, I would like to have back," Mason said.
Game 2 goes Saturday at Detroit (6 p.m. ET).
With files from the Associated Press