The battle of Ducks and Red Wings has finally begun. The last two teams to hoist the Stanley Cup brought in the merry month of May with a battle where goals and hits nearly held the same value. Even though the Wings won this first battle 3-2, the war has only begun.
The Ducks scored the first goal and drew first blood in the first period. Seven minutes into the game, Corey Perry scored on a slap shot past Chris Osgood. Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Pronger assisted the Ducks' forward.
However, about a minute later, Mike Brown gave an elbow with enough force to knock the gloves off of Jiri Hudler as he fell to the ice. As Hudler tried to get up, the blood gushed onto the ice. A towel to the face got Hudler off the ice and stitches would allow for his return. However, Mike Brown was tossed from the game.
There was debate over whether the hit was dirty since Hudler's head was down when he was hit and over whether the blood was a result of the hit or a result of his visor cutting him when he hit the ice.
In truth, all of this is yes; however, this is Ducks vs. Wings. The league is well aware of the history of these teams, so something like this happens, someone is going to the showers as an example so the series doesn't get out of control.
About five minutes later, Johan Franzen responded to both events when he scored and crashed into the Ducks' goalie in the same motion. There was debate for an interference penalty on Franzen. Players were asked in between periods and after the game if this goal was revenge on the Hudler hit. The players on both teams wouldn't bite on the leading questions.
Deep in the second period, the next goal was by captain Niklas Lidstrom. The Lidstrom slap-shot is one of the best in hockey. It's the right combination of accuracy and speed that is not the easiest to defend. It was aided by Tomas Holmstrom parked in front of Hiller. Brad Stuart and Pavel Datsyuk assisted the captain as well.
Five minutes later, Teemu Selanne scored on a perfectly set up one-timer. Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Pronger once again were on the assists. The one-timer gave Osgood no chance to defend it. Selanne is one of the best scorers of his generation, so when the puck reached his stick, it was already in the net.
The third peroid's only goal was with about 50 seconds to go. Henrik Zetterberg skated into the Ducks' zone and was taken down; Daniel Cleary then got the puck and passed it to Lidstrom to shoot. Hiller defended this sequence of events. However, Lidstrom kept skating towards the scrum in front of the net and shot the rebound under Hiller's pads.
The goals were few in this opening game. The hits were everywhere, not only in the variety of the Brown hit, but also in front of both nets. The players, including the goalies, jumped at the chance without hesitation.
Jonathan Ericsson, in replacing Brian Rafalski to pair with Lidstrom, got an education in playoff hockey. He didn't let the hits by the Ducks get to him; he hit back and got into a fight with Perry in the second period.
Hiller is going to have his hands full with Franzen, not just because of Franzen's goal. Any chance Franzen had to have contact with Hiller, he took advantage of. Replays showed him staring down Hiller after his goal and lifting Hiller's pads just before Lidstrom's game winning goal.
Game Two will take place Sunday afternoon in Joe Louis Arena. Not enough time has passed for both teams to forget the goals and the hits. The teams will continue the level of intensity that has made both champions of the NHL. The game will probably not be high scoring, as neither team will give any ice without a fight or two.
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