Ask any coach in the NHL and they'll tell you: We need that first goal.
Michel Therrien knows how badly they need that first goal if they are going to get the split going back to the Igloo in Pittsburgh.
Thus far these playoffs, the young Penguins have found what a difference the first goal makes, going 10-2 in every game in which they have netted the first goal.
"I don't know if it was the nerves, but it was definitely the worst performance in the playoffs." Michel Therrien summed up Game 1.
Down at the other end, the Detroit Red Wings could say the same thing for scoring first, winning every game against both Nashville and Dallas in which they scored first. Yet, the Red Wings have played from behind, winning two games against the Colorado Avalanche when the Avs got the pivotal first goal.
But now the Penguins have to learn another lesson. Getting that first goal in the finals is even more important than at any other time during the playoffs.
"Bad decision on the puck, bad change, those are mental mistakes." commented Therrien on the Pens' Game 1 performance. "You can't make mistakes like that against them."
Dream finals or not, these two teams deserve to be here, with firepower that has dominated every team, every round thus far in the 2008 playoffs. Since both teams play a similar puck possessive style, that ups the ante on the importance of the first goal.
"If we use our speed, we're going to create some chances, or they're going to have to take some penalties." Sidney Crosby commented on after the game. "I felt pretty good, but you have to execute. We had a few pucks bounce around in the crease, and they just didn't go in."
Marian Hossa had a great chance to open the scoring in the first. With Chris Osgood down and out, Hossa couldn't get the puck over enough to flip it over Osgood. The game remained scoreless until Mikael Samuelsson's rush up the ice for his first of two on the night.
A very energetic first game in Detroit is setting this series up to be a real barn-burner.
Come Monday night, there's going to be one thing both Mike Babcock and Therrien are going to tell their guys:
We need that first goal.
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