The St. Louis Blues are a very different team from the Vancouver Canucks?they concentrate more on defense than on offense, and they have more talent and depth. It was a hard fought game, but a much better way to start a series, as the Red Wings came out on top with a score of 2-0.
The game started cautiously and quietly, each team feeling the other out, concentrating on defense and waiting for the offensive opportunities to present themselves. Detroit took advantage of an opportunity 7:40 into the game. Pavel Datsyuk, back in the lineup after sitting out the last two games of Round One, dumped the puck into the Blues’ zone. Brett Hull went into the corner after it, tangling with a St. Louis defenseman. The puck squirted free and back out to Datsyuk in front of the net. Datsyuk was well covered by a St. Louis player?he was on one leg, being knocked over as he let the shot go, but it still fluttered into the net high and to the left of goaltender Brent Johnson.
The second period continued in the defensive style, although the Blues began to regain their momentum from Round One and press the net harder. Dominik Hasek made several key saves to keep the Blues off the board, and any rebounds were scooped away by the Red Wings’ defense. Detroit had to kill off some penalties at the end of the period, but it turned out to be more to their benefit than to that of the Blues.
Sergei Fedorov was sent to the penalty box for slashing with just under two minutes left to play, and the Blues tried to set up a play to tie the game. Doug Weight tried to shoot the puck from the blue line, but Steve Yzerman blocked it, it bounced free to Hull, and they were away on a two-on-one rush. Weight, a forward unaccustomed to playing defense, did manage to take away Hull’s passing lane to Yzerman. Hull’s first shot bounced off Johnson and right back, so Hull worked the rebound around Johnson and put it into the net from behind the goalie.
The third period continued in much the same fashion as the second. The Blues had some great chances, but were unable to capitalize on them. With just over a minute left in the game, Johnson left the net so that the Blues could send out the extra attacker. The Blues sent the puck deep into Detroit’s zone, and Hasek came out of the net to clear it away?trying, perhaps, for an elusive empty net goal. Instead, big Keith Tkachuk came barrelling down on him, trying to lay on a hard hit. Hasek managed to get most of his body out of Tkachuk’s path. Chris Chelios took exception to rough treatment of his goaltender, and came in against Tkachuk, and everyone on the ice got into the action.
The resulting calls by the officials sent Tkachuk out of the game, but sent Chelios to the penalty box, leaving only four Red Wings to defend against six St. Louis skaters. But with help from their goaltender, they managed it, getting the puck down to the other end of the ice in time for the final buzzer.
The total number of shots on net were fairly low, twenty-three to twenty in favor of St. Louis. Round Two playoff action will continue on Saturday afternoon at the Joe.
St. Louis goaltender Brent Johnson is a native of Farmington Hills, and the grandson of Red Wings star Sid Abel, a member of the famed “Production Line” with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay?. Pavel Datsyuk’s goal was his first ever playoff goal?. Steve Yzerman’s assist on Brett Hull’s goal puts him into the current league lead for playoff scoring.