Gm 1 In "The Land Of OZ" and Manny Malhotra Is Already Asking Himself...

Sherman L. McCleskyCorrespondent IApril 17, 2009

LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 29:  Manny Malhotra #27 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates during their NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on December 29, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. The Blue Jackets defeated the Kings 2-0. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

... "Is there no place like home???"

That's the thought that may had went through his mind as the Columbus Blue Jackets ran into two buzzsaws; Chris Osgood and himself.

Osgood's 20 saves led the Detroit Red Wings as they outlasted the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1, before the capacity crowd of 20,066 at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.

Chris Osgood was off to a rough start. A minute and a half into the game, he had to make spectacular diving save after a turnover, then faced three power plays, including a brief 5 on 3.

Not to be out done, Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason had 14 saves in the first period leaving both teams scoreless after the first.

It appeared early that the young Columbus Blue Jackets, with a combined total of +700 playoff games amongst their veterans, had a glimmer of hope against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, with a combined total of close to 1,800 playoff games amongst their veterans. 

Yes, you know where this article is going. The game came down to inexperience, particularly in one center.

Blue Jacket Center Manny Malhotra attempted to make a "glove save" on a shot made by the Wings' Jonathan Ericsson. When he tried to reach out for the puck, he inadvertently tipped it past his own goaltender and into the net. This gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead of which they would never look back.

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"I saw the shot all the way and I wanted to grab it, but I didn't get enough of it, obviously." - Manny Malhotra

Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock could not believe that Malhotra, a nine year NHL veteran, had made such a bad rookie error. Hitchcock insisted he doesn't coach his players to do what Malhotra had done in front of his goalie.

"We've made that mistake before and it cost us the same way. That's an easy, simple save for Mason." - Ken Hitchcock

That gaffe killed what was suppose to be a momentum changing point.

One minute after the Wings' Jiri Hudler had fired up the crowd with the game's first goal (10:48), R.J. Umberger answered with a goal of his own, tying the game at one apiece.

Unfortunately, the Malhotra error had the Red Wings smelling blood in the water and they proceeded to go right after the Jackets.

Less than a minute later, on the power play, the Wings Niklas Kronwall scored off a slapper and with only a little over two minutes into the third, Johan Franzen scored off a backhand shot fed to him by Henrik Zetterberg, to make it a 4-1 final score.

The Detroit Red Wings may lead the series 1-0, but it might as well be 3-0 when you consider what could be going through the minds of the Blue Jackets right now. But before you began to write them off, Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason has a warning to issue out.

"We leave here with it being a game apiece and that will be a good accomplishment"  

Clearly Mason had gotten past it; but what about Malhotra...? Stay tuned.

Game 2 of the first-round series is Saturday night in Detroit.

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