Brian Rafalski scored the eventual winner as the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 on Wednesday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Johan Franzen had a goal and an assist and Pavel Datsyuk and Jiri Hudler also scored for the Wings, who were without regular-season scoring leader Henrik Zetterberg as he sat out the game with a knee injury.
Kyle Turris and Radim Vrbata replied for the Coyotes, who have gone 0-3 all-time in playoff matchups versus the Wings, including a seven-game defeat in the first-round last season.
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 26 shots to pick up the win, while counterpart Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 32 shots for the Coyotes in the loss.
Phoenix went 0-for-6 on the power play against Detroit, which had the highest goal-against-average of any team entering the playoffs.
Turris, making his NHL playoff debut, opened up the scoring at 2:16 of the first period when he took a pass in the slot from Ray Whitney to beat Howard and take an early 1-0 lead.
As the Coyotes cycled the puck behind the net, Turris managed to slip behind the defensive coverage of Franzen and find Whitney’s pass, which he deposited over the right blocker hand of Howard for his first-ever NHL post-season goal.
The first period was marred by penalties with the referees calling five minors in total, but neither team was able to score on the man advantage, which included a 5-on-3 power play for the Coyotes, who outshot the Wings 11-9 in the opening frame.
Detroit got one back when Datsyuk scored on a wraparound at 7:38 into the second period to tie the game at 1-1, a goal assisted on by Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom, who cycled the puck beautifully around the net before finding Datsyuk.
Datsyuk’s goal was the result of heavy offensive zone pressure from the entire Wings team along with lots of traffic in front of the net, as three players from each team stood near the crease distracting Bryzgalov while Datsyuk snuck around.
Minutes after nearly stealing the puck from Bryzgalov and putting it in the net, Franzen took advantage of a Phoenix turnover in the neutral zone to rush in and fire a blistering shot past the Coyotes goalie to give the Wings a 2-1 lead at 12:02 of the second.
Franzen corralled the puck after a Phoenix miscue, skated over the blue-line and took a hard shot that went through the legs of Coyotes defenceman Adrian Aucoin and over the right blocker hand of Bryzgalov for his first goal of the spring.
With Ed Jovanovski in the box for the Coyotes, Detroit added to the lead at 18:16 of the second when Rafalski scored the eventual winner, a power-play goal off a booming shot from the point to make the game 3-1 for the Wings.
Detroit took advantage of another giveaway in the neutral zone as the puck skipped right onto the stick of Hudler, who rushed in down the left wing to beat Bryzgalov glove high at 2:16 of the third to make it 4-1 for Detroit.
Phoenix got one back at 8:34 of the third to cut the lead to 4-2 after Martin Hanzal took advantage of a Detroit turnover near the blue-line and dropped a pass to Vrbata, who shot the puck past a screened Howard for his third-career playoff goal, but it wasn’t enough to spark a Phoenix comeback.
Game two is at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Detroit.
NOTES: Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall returned after missing the last five games of the season with an upper-body injury…Mike Modano, who was signed as a free-agent last summer, was a healthy scratch. Coach Babcock said it gave his team the best chance to win…Coyotes defenceman Derek Morris missed the game with an upper-body injury. Fellow blueliner David Schlemko, playing in his first NHL playoff game, replaced him in the lineup.