Now the Dallas Stars know just how their opponents usually feel.
For a change, the defensive-minded Stars wound up on the short end of the shot totals and dropped a 2-0 decision to the Detroit Red Wings in the opener of the Western Conference Finals."We were trying to make the perfect play and get the perfect shot instead of just shooting the puck at the net," Stars center Guy Carbonneau said after his team was held to just 14 shots by the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings. "I thought we played good in the first period, but after that our focus just wasn't the same."
A 14-shot total for their opponent wasn't unusual as far as the Stars were concerned during the regular season. The Stars allowed 167 goals, second only to the NHL-leading New Jersey Devils.
In the playoffs, the Stars have been just as stingy, allowing 17 goals in 11 playoff games before Sunday. That's fewer than the average of goals allowed by the eight losing teams in the first round.
This time, though, the defensive might belonged to the Red Wings.
"Scoring chances aren't going to come often the way these two teams are playing," Detroit left wing Brendan Shanahan said. "It was important for us to get the lead tonight. It enabled us to play our style."
The offensively overstocked Red Wings won the opener of the Western Conference finals by doing their best impression of the Stars' winning strategy: score first and sit on a one- or two-goal lead.
"The team that gets the lead can afford to sit back and know that the other team is going to have to spend some time to try and open it up and take some chances," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said.
The Red Wings' successful execution of the Stars' game plan even let goaltender Chris Osgood get a taste of being Dallas goaltender Ed Belfour, who often benefits from the excellent shot-blocking of his defensemen. Osgood easily earned his fourth career playoff shutout.
The Stars, on the other hand, looked like one of their own victims. Though they finished with the top point total in the regular season, they failed to show any of the offense that made them the Presidents' Trophy winner.
Dallas applied early physical forechecking pressure to counter the Red Wings' rapid, short-pass transition game, but both teams could only manage a shot apiece in the first 10 minutes.
The Stars' power play was ineffective early and 0-for-5 overall, managing only three shots while former Stars left wing Brent Gilchrist was sent off for goalie interference. Dallas also had no shots during a 46-second two-man advantage, courtesy of a cross-checking penalty on Jamie Macoun at 10:27.
The Red Wings were shotless on their first power-play attempt, but scored on their third power play of the game. They went 1-for-6 overall.