Capitalizing on Philadelphia mistakes to win the opening game of the Stanley Cup finals had an added bonus for the Detroit Red Wings.
Not only were the Flyers left to worry about their game, but now also have concerns about their goaltending situation - again.
Kirk Maltby and Joe Kocur scored on breakaways and Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman beat Ron Hextall with shots that could well have been stopped in leading the Red Wings to a 4-2 victory in the opener of the best-of-7 series.
“We knew if we could get on them and make them move the puck before they wanted to, we would get a few chances,” Kocur said. “I don’t think on a regular basis we’re going to get that many but tonight we did and we buried a couple.”
Rod Brind’Amour and John LeClair scored for the Flyers, who probably made more major mistakes in this game than they did in beating the New York Rangers in five games in the Eastern Conference final.
“That was as bad as we have played in the last month and a half,” Flyers coach Terry Murray said.
Eric Lindros was as guilty as any Flyer. He made the first mistake and his teammates followed his lead most of the night in moving the Red Wings a little closer to their first Cup in 42 years.
Game 2 will be played here on Tuesday night.
“It’s a good start to the series, but it is just getting under way and winning the first game isn’t necessarily an indication of the way the series is going to go,” Yzerman said. “Obviously we are pleased with getting the win and it is a decent start. But we are just getting started.”
One question that wasn’t answered in the game was whether Detroit’s speed and skill could offset the Flyers’ size and Lindros.
The mistakes seemed to take the Flyers out of their game and they couldn’t cycle the puck deep in the Red Wings zone. When they did get chances, Vernon was there, making 26 saves.
“We’re just skating well with this hockey club,” Vernon said. “They’re a big hockey club. We’re just trying to get in the way and battle hard with them. They have a lot of power and strength and we’re just trying to play good positional hockey. Guys are just working hard right now.”
Hextall finished with 26 saves, but his performance may cause coach Terry Murray to think about giving a start to Garth Snow, who started the first nine games of the playoffs for Philadelphia before slumping and being replaced.
Murray said he was not considering any changes right now, but he will now have a couple of days to think about Hextall’s performance.
“The first three goals he (Hextall) really had little chance on,” Murray said. “The last goal is the play we have to have. We gave up a real soft goal.”
“It was a long way out; I need to make that save,” he said.
Things got so bad, the mostly orange- and black-shirted crowd of 20,291 booed Hextall for stopping dump-ins by the Red Wings.
To be fair, Hextall was left to fend for himself, particularly in the first period when Detroit grabbed a 2-1 lead when Maltby and Kocur sandwiched breakaway goals around Brind’Amour’s power-play goal.
Fedorov stretched the lead to 3-1 on 2-on-1 break set up when Paul Coffey failed to keep the puck in the Detroit zone. The snap shot from the right circle zipped over Hextall’s glove but it appeared catchable.
LeClair got the crowd back into the game by beating Vernon with 2:49 left in the second period, converting after nice passes by Lindros and Mikael Renberg.
However, Yzerman restored the two-goal lead in the opening minute of the third period, beating Hextall with a 40-footer that appeared stoppable.
Red Wings 4, Flyers 2
Detroit 2 1 1 - 4
Philadelphia 1 1 0 - 2
First period-1, Detroit, Maltby 4 (Draper), 6:38 (sh). 2, Philadelphia, Brind’Amour 11 (Lindros, Niinimaa), 7:37 (pp). 3, Detroit, Kocur 1, 15:56. Penalties-Sandstrom, Det (high-sticking), 5:50; Fetisov, Det (interference), 11:26; Klatt, Phi (interference), 17:09; Kocur, Det (interference), 19:42.
Second period-4, Detroit, Fedorov 6 (Murphy, McCarty), 11:41. 5, Philadelphia, LeClair 8 (Renberg, Lindros), 17:11. Penalties-Lacroix, Phi (interference), 5:48; Fedorov, Det (tripping), 7:08; Fetisov, Det (interference), 15:07; Klatt, Phi (charging), 17:45.
Third period-5, Detroit, Yzerman 5 (Murphy), :56. Penalties-Svoboda, Phi (cross-checking), 6:27; Lindros, Phi (roughing), 17:48.
Shots on goal-Detroit 8-12-10-30. Philadelphia 10-9-9-28.Power-play opp.-Detroit 0 of 5; Philadelphia 1 of 5.Goalies-Detroit, Vernon 13-4 (28 shots-26 saves). Philadelphia, Hextall 4-1 (30-26).A-20,291 (19,511).