Glendale, Ariz. — The Red Wings are in for a serious fight. If they didn’t know it before, they do now.
The Phoenix Coyotes, playing their first playoff game since 2002 and the first ever at Jobing.com Arena, beat up the Wings physically and on the scoreboard, using three power play goals to take Game 1 of this Western Conference quarterfinal series, 3-2.
“To win at this time of year, you’ve got to have a lot of determination,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You have to have a lot of will and you have to compete hard. The message they sent tonight, I thought, was they are willing to do that. Now if we are willing to do that, too, we are going to have to dig in.”
The winner came at 2:19 of the third period. Matthew Lombardi easily won the faceoff at the side of the Wings net and got it to point man Derek Morris. Morris had all the time he needed to tee it up and blast it by Jimmy Howard.
Babcock said it was no mystery why he had so much time and space.
“There was clearly interference on that play,” he said. “But that’s the way hockey goes sometimes.”
Babcock also felt the Coyotes should have been assessed a four-minute high-sticking penalty with seven and a half minutes left. With the Wings just finishing up a power play, Nick Lidstrom was clipped and cut in the face with a stick. The cut required stitches afterword.
But, after convening, the officials opted not to call any penalty.
“Obviously, I didn’t see it the same as the referee,” Babcock said.
But those non-calls didn’t beat the Wings, the Coyotes’ fierce and relentless forecheck did. They outhit the Wings 43-20. Captain Shane Doan spearheaded the effort with nine hits. The cumulative effect was that by the third period, the Coyotes were playing with great assurance and the Wings had their heads on a swivel.
The Wings, though they got 40 shots and plenty of chances on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, were outshot 20-11 in the third.
“That’s not what I thought,” Babcock said, when asked if the Coyotes’ physicality took the Wings out of their game. “I thought when they scored their goals, they took over, momentum-wise. They were on top of us.”
Brad Stuart said, “That’s the way playoff hockey is. It’s more physical. It seemed like they were making a point to go after a couple of our guys. That’s the way it is. We have to be ready for it.”
It got to the point where the Coyotes were goading the Wings. After Johan Franzen took a hooking penalty in the attacking zone with 8:45 left in the game, Sami Lepisto, with one glove off, taunted him and then laughed when Franzen didn’t engage him.
“I think that went both ways,” Todd Bertuzzi said of the physical play. “They took some penalties and we didn’t capitalize on enough of them. We got plenty of chances. We just need to bear down.”
The Wings were 1-for-6 on the power play. The Coyotes, who came in riding an 0-for-20 drought on the power play, scored on their first three chances — by Keith Yandle, on a shot that bounced off Stuart, and the other by Wojtek Wolski.
“We just worked, we worked hard and we worked their PK,” Morris said. “We’ve been like this all year. We feel we can come back from any score and we don’t believe we are ever out of a game.”
The Wings, perhaps taking advantage of the Coyotes’ early jitters, dominated play in the first period. Tomas Holmstrom scored on a wrister that eluded Bryzgalov’s glove and Lidstrom scored the power-play marker in the second.
For Lidstrom, it was his 236th playoff game, tying Mark Messier for the second most in NHL history. They are 30 behind Chris Chelios.
The loss ends a streak of nine straight victories in series-openers for the Wings. They haven’t been down 1-0 since 2007.