Balanced effort helps Red Wings blank Blue Jackets - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Balanced effort helps Red Wings blank Blue Jackets

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DETROIT (AP) -- The Red Wings relied on unsung players to get

off to a good start against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Two stars put the defending Stanley Cup champions in control.

Pavel Datsyuk slammed a shot into the net, and Henrik Zetterberg

sent a puck to the top shelf, leading Detroit to a 4-0 win

against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night and a 2-0 lead in the

first-round Western Conference series.

"They're best players today were their best players," Columbus

coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They were terrific and they made the

difference."

In Game 1, Detroit's third line was dominant while Datsyuk's and

Zetterberg's lines didn't do much offensively.

Brian Rafalski scored the first goal of Game 2 and Jiri Hudler

had the last, giving Chris Osgood more than enough support as he

posted his 14th NHL playoff shutout.

Barring a stunning turnaround, Detroit will become the first

defending Stanley Cup champion to reach the second round since

the Colorado Avalanche did it seven years ago.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves here," Red Wings coach Mike

Babcock said. "We've won two games."

Columbus hopes returning home will help Tuesday night when it

hosts a playoff game for the first time in franchise history.

"We have to respond to the pressure to make this a long series,"

Hitchcock said.

The Red Wings have silenced Blue Jackets star Rick Nash, holding

him pointless in two games.

"That's a team effort," defenseman Brad Stuart said. "It's not

just one guy who can hold down a guy like that. Strong play from

the defensemen, but also the forwards coming back hard."

Detroit has made rookie goalie Steve Mason long for the success

he had during the regular season.

Mason had an NHL-high 10 shutouts, the most by a rookie since

Chicago's Tony Esposito during in the 1969-70 season, but he has

given up four goals in his first two playoff games. He made 35

saves in Game 2.

Osgood stopped 25 shots and moved into a fourth-place tie on the

NHL's career postseason shutout list with former teammate

Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour and Jacques Plante.

"Ozzie has played real well, making some big saves," Babcock

said.

The second-seeded Red Wings vowed to take the seventh-seeded

Blue Jackets seriously before the series started.

It wasn't just talk.

Detroit knows what its like to lose in the first round as

defending champions because it happened to the storied franchise

in 2002.

The next four NHL champions -- New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Carolina

and Anaheim -- failed to put up much of a fight after hoisting

the Cup.

The Devils, Lightning and Ducks all had first-round exits as

defending champions and the Hurricanes didn't make it to the

playoffs.

"It's the accumulation of wearing a target all the time," said

Hitchcock, who helped the Dallas Stars reach the 2000 Cup finals

as a defending champion. "You get everybody's A-game during the

regular season, and then you get A-plus in the playoffs."

After winning the Cup in 2001, the Colorado Avalanche lost to

Detroit in the Western Conference finals.

Columbus was competitive for much of Game 1 despite the 4-1

score.

The Blue Jackets hung around for about half of the first period

Saturday before Detroit's talent, speed and toughness

overwhelmed them.

"We look like we're back to playing like we can, being

physically engaged," Babcock said. "The physical part of our

game is very much underestimated by our opponents. We've got

big, strong guys who like winning."

Rafalski scored on the power play at 13:33 of the first period,

Datsyuk scored on a power play midway through the second, and

Zetterberg's even-strength goal late in the second made it 3-0.

In the third period, Hudler scored on a power play. It was his

second goal of the series.

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