ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- In spite of the fact that the Red Wings outshot the Minnesota Wild by a large margin thoughout the game, the Wild were able to capitalize on a few defensive errors and their excellent goaltending from Dwayne Roloson to shut out the Wings, 4-0.
The first goal came on the first shift of the game. The puck bounced off the skate of Darren McCarty and right to the stick of Matt Johnson, coming up the high slot from the blue line. Johnson's shot rose high over Manny Legace and into the net.
The Red Wings had their chances through the first period and the start of the second, but Roloson was ready for them. He was able to see most of the shots that got through to him, and many of the shots that would have been the best scoring chances were either blocked or went just wide of the net.
Sergei Zholtok increased the Wild's lead to two midway through the second. Marion Gaborik centered a pass from the right boards. Sergei Zholtok was out in front of the net all by himself to receive the pass. He faked a backhand shot, causing Legace to drop to take away the low part of the net, but then lifted a forehand shot high into the net.
The Red Wings made a good attempt to come back in the third period. Unfortunately, Roloson continued to play well, and the Red Wings' efforts were hampered by having to kill off a 5-on-3 power play near the end of the game. First Sergei Fedorov was sent out for high-sticking with 5:14 left to go. Then with 4:01 remaining, Legace was assessed a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck up into the protective netting, even though video review showed that the puck had hit the boards before bouncing up to the netting, and thus no penalty should have been assessed.
Mathieu Dandenault went into the box to serve the penalty. Legace, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Kirk Maltby did an excellent job of killing off Minnesota's two man advantage, but it used up valuable time which could have been used in trying to even the score.
The Red Wings pulled Legace from net to send in an extra skater with two minutes remaining, but Antti Laaksonen was able to pick up a bouncing puck and put it into the empty net.
Brendan Shanahan's frustrations came to a boil, and he complained vociferously to the referees about the earlier unwarranted delay of game call on Legace. All he got for his trouble was a two minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a ten minute misconduct penalty. Shanahan was sent to the locker room, and Jason Williams went into the penalty box to serve the two minute minor with 1:41 remaining. Adding insult to injury, Jim Dowd tipped a shot by Filip Kuba into Legace's net with just 19 seconds left in the game to make the score 4-0.
The final count of shots on net was 33-21 in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings will look to regroup and finish up this home-and-home series with Minnesota on Tuesday night back at the Joe.
Notes: Steve Yzerman stayed out of the lineup to avoid playing in back-to-back games, and Tomas Holmstrom was out due to tonsilitis. Jason Williams was recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins to fill the hole in the forward lines.... Minnesota's win tonight clinches their first playoff berth in the franchise's three year history. The only other expansion team to make it to the playoffs in only three years was the Florida Panthers in 1996.