Henrik Zetterberg scored the go-ahead goal just under seven minutes into the third period and added an empty-net goal in the final minute of the period to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-1 home win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
Nashville players believed Zetterberg's winner was an offside play.
"We cleared the puck and it look like it hit the linesman and came back in," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I looked at it again on replay and from my judgment, it looked fairly clear.
"Usually in that situation, the linesmen or the referee blow that to not give an unfair advantage."
Johan Franzen opened the scoring in the first in the Western Conference quarter-final as the Red Wings fired 39 shots on Nashville goalie Dan Ellis.
"We do have resiliency and character. We're going grind this thing out," Ellis said. "Whatever we have in this room is good enough to win against any team. We've beaten Detroit before and there's no reason we can't do it again."
Jordin Tootoo scored his first career playoff goal late in the second to tie the game.
Detroit netminder Dominik Hasek made 19 saves in his 116th career playoff game. Game 2 of the Western Conference quarter-final takes place Saturday afternoon back at the Joe Louis Arena.
"The first one is the toughest to get, especially when you're at home and you've got more jitters than you'd think," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
The first game of the series resembled the close games between the clubs during the regular season, during which Detroit won five of eight meetings.
Detroit took advantage of Nashville turnovers to open the scoring at 5:58 of the first, when Franzen converted a pass from Jiri Hudler in the slot.
The teams traded chances early in the second. Jan Hlavac was stopped by Hasek, with Ellis denying Mikael Samuelsson.
Predators miss great chance
The Red Wings dominated much of the period. Pavel Datsyuk picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone on Ellis, but the Nashville netminder made a right pad save.
Nashville escaped the period with a tie after their goal at 17:47, credited to Tootoo. Greg Zanon's shot from the point changed directions at least once and squirted between Hasek's pads.
The Predators had their first great chance to take the lead around six minutes into the third, with Vernon Fiddler hitting the post.
The miss was crucial, as seconds later Datsyuk's cross-ice pass was set up perfectly for Zetterberg, who snapped it past a sprawling Ellis. The Nashville netminder, who led the NHL in save percentage in his first full season, was making his playoff debut.
"I think it was a lucky bounce," said Zetterberg, who added his empty-net goal with 19 seconds left. "I think it hit the ref and went straight to my stick."
Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart, who missed nearly three weeks with a broken finger, returned to the lineup and played 22 minutes.
The Red Wings were awarded the Presidents' Trophy as the top team in the NHL during the regular season. The franchise has won the honour four times in the last six seasons and were the last team in the league to win it and go on to win the Stanley Cup, in 2002.