Desert dogs fall to Detroit

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard defends his net against Coyotes forward Andrew Ebbett during Game 1...

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard defends his net against Coyotes forward Andrew Ebbett during Game 1 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final in Detroit, Mich. April 13, 2011. (REBECCA COOK/Reuters)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:10 AM ET

DETROIT - The epidemic of queasy stomachs in Hockeytown has been all but cured.

Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen brought just what the doctor ordered to settle those jumpy insides.

The Red Wings opened their best-of-seven National Hockey League Western Conference quarterfinals with a 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday.

It was a nervous time for Detroit going into these playoffs. Their Stanley Cup contender looked nothing like what they've been used to seeing in recent springs.

But, as always, the Red Wings never fail to show up at the starting line for the Stanley Cup.

"We look at the playoffs as being a fresh start," said Red Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom who over the last few years has heard time and time again how the Wings have gone off the boil. "Look at the board and no one has any wins or losses. It's start from scratch. That's how we look at it. It's the same for the power play and penalty killing. You start from scratch. You want a good start and we got it."

The list of negatives going into this series was long and troublesome for the Wings.

This is the 20th consecutive year the Wings have made it into the NHL playoffs, but it's also the first time in that period they enter with the highest goals against of all 16 teams.

There are also the usual worries about the Red Wings' age and that they were 4-5-2 in their last 10 games before the playoffs.

Franzen, a player they rely on to score, has scored twice in 27 the last games.

They open these playoffs without leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg, who is out with a knee injury. Even though the Wings say he's day-to-day, there is no real timeline for his return. He may miss the entire series.

But the other racehorse showed up ready to run in Game 1. Datsyuk, who was by far the best player on the ice, tied the game 1-1 in the second period. His goal seemed relax the Wings.

The Wings were in trouble early with penalties, but the Phoenix power play was pathetic. It failed to score in six power plays, including an extended five-on-three. The Coyotes totalled just three extra-man shots.

"Killing the five-on-three was important," Lidstrom said. "We didn't quite have our legs but after killing those penalties it gave us a lot more confidence."

From that point on, it was mostly one-way traffic and it was headed right at Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

By the end of the second period, the Red Wings had a 3-1 lead.

Remember Franzen, the scorer who hasn't scored?

He loves the playoff atmosphere. In his last three post seasons, he has 31 goals and 28 assists. And he's at it again.

A little more than four minutes after Datsyuk tied it, Franzen intercepted a clearing pass just outside the Coyotes' blueline, took three strides and whipped a wrist shot just inside the post.

"He's got that shot. He can beat goalies from far out," Datysuk said. "It was great to see."

Detroit's other goals were scored by Brian Rafalski and Jiri Hudler.

Coyotes centre Kyle Turris scored his first playoff goal in his first playoff game, while Radim Vrbata had a third-period goal.

"We hung around. We're going to have to be much better," said Coyotes' coach Dave Tippet. "Our puck movement wasn't good enough."

While the win was a relief to the Wings, there's still a lot of work to do. The Coyotes are looking to settle a score from last year when the Wings knocked them out of the playoffs.

"It's one game," Datysuk said. "It was good start. But it is just a step by step."


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