DETROIT -- Heading into the contest, Kyle Brodziak was excited about the prospect of playing on the first line.
But by the end of the first period yesterday, the Edmonton Oilers centre was looking for a place to hide.
Brodziak, who took Shawn Horcoff's spot on the top unit, was on the ice for three-first period goals, as the Detroit Red Wings cruised to an 8-3 victory at the Joe Louis Arena.
"It's a big step for him, but we really didn't have much of an alternative than to go with Kyle based on the way he played in St. Louis," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "It's a tough position to play when you jump in there on the first line and the first penalty-kill unit against a very tough opponent."
It would be unfair to just throw Brodziak under the bus since everyone else dove down there with him in the first period.
Already heading into the game without Horcoff, defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky, and with Tom Gilbert nursing a bad back, the Oilers were under pressure literally from the drop of the puck and couldn't even get out of the opening shift on even terms.
Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson was assessed a slashing minor penalty early and the Red Wings went on to score on the powerplay. Marian Hossa made a great play with his skate to re-direct the puck back to Brian Rafalski at the point, who blew a shot past Roloson.
Brett Lebda increased the lead, re-directing a Kris Draper centring pass past Roloson. The goal prompted Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish to call a timeout in an attempt to keep the game from getting out of hand.
But it got out of hand.
Cleary re-directed a feed from Niklas Kronwall past Roloson, then Marian Hossa tipped one in, and to round out the period, Henrik Zetterberg picked Brodziak's pocket at centre and set up Pavel Datsyuk for the fifth goal of the period.
"I don't know if we were really nervous or tentative, but you could tell we were uptight and weren't skating," Brodziak said. "They're a good team -- they have a lot of skill over there -- and when you're not ready to skate with them, they're going to pick you apart, like they did.
"I think maybe, like everyone else, the nerves might have got the best of me in the first period. When a team is swarming you like that, you have to make sure you're skating, and we just did do that."
The Oilers did manage to get things somewhat organized in the second period, as goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers allowed Niklas Lidstrom to rip a shot past him from the blue line with 6.4 seconds left in the period.
In the third, Zack Stortini scored on the wraparound and then helped set up Dustin Penner's goal before Marc Pouliot added a third tally.
But the Wings netted two late goals to finish scoring.
"We knew they were going to come hard at the start -- they hadn't been playing up to their standards, and it had been a bit of a boot camp from what we understand around here," MacTavish said. "They picked us apart with point-shots and deflections in front. I thought, after that, we battled hard."
Today, the Oilers conclude their three-game road trip with a game against the Minnesota Wild (1 p.m.. Sports- net) at the Xcel Energy Center.