DETROIT When the Red Wings were in dire need of a big play Wednesday night, center Kris Draper delivered.
Thats not a surprise. Sure, Draper might not be one of the NHLs most recognizable names, and he might not be a future Hall of Famer. But all season long, he has gotten big goals and made important plays.
His goal 37 seconds into the third period Wednesday night sparked a three-goal rally in the Wings 3-1 victory.
Kris Draper was very vocal in the locker room at the beginning of the game, Coach Dave Lewis said. I particularly remember him saying some things at the end of the second period, and its ironic hes the one that got this whole thing started.
Its not unusual for Draper to be a vocal presence in the locker room.
Im one of the cheerleaders in here, he said. I just tried to use my emotion and intensity and obviously just wanted to keep the good feelings. We were down 1-0, but we felt we were coming on and playing better.
We were playing our puck-possession style, and thats the game we have to play. We just kept coming in the third period.
Wednesdays game was eerily reminiscent of last seasons playoff series against the Mighty Ducks, who shocked the Wings with a first-round sweep. On Wednesday night, the Wings had trouble generating any kind of offense.
But Drapers goal opened the floodgates.
Big goal, Kris kind of started it for us, center Robert Lang said.
Said Draper: As much experience as we have on this team, what happened last year, you just kind of shake your head. It was nice my shot got through, and then Homer (Holmstrom) scored his goal. We didnt sit back, and you cant against a team like Nashville.
A little tight
Even though the won the Presidents Trophy with the NHLs best record and were clear favorites against the Predators, the Wings were tight early in the game.
At the beginning, we were trying to do too much, Lewis said.
The defensemen were getting out of position for hits, the forwards were running out of position to get a hit, and we lost all our ice balance. We had too many people caught deep.
Said defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom: Its just playoffs are starting and everyone was anxious to get going. We were a bit nervous for that first game, and now that first game is over.
Goalie Curtis Joseph is ready to go if needed.
Joseph, who was Manny Legaces backup Wednesday night, said his right ankle, which has bothered him since he was hurt in a collision Feb. 11, is progressing.
Im focused on the here and now and doing everything necessary to get better, and be ready if called upon, Joseph said.
... The Wings special teams had mixed results. They killed all three Predators power plays but were 0-for-5 with the man-advantage.
... This is the first time in three seasons the Wings have won Game 1 of a first-round series at home. They lost to the Mighty Ducks last year and the Canucks in 2002.
... ESPN analyst Bill Clement said this Wings are one of those rare teams that can overcome a question mark in net.
But who has seen this Wings team together? said Clement, referring to their many injuries this season. They have the pieces of the puzzle, but now its like putting together the jigsaw. I want to see how everyone works with the ice time.