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Legace helps Detroit avoid a case of deja vu

4/8/2004

DETROIT (AP) -- The story line was not lost on Manny Legace.

Detroit's goaltender was just glad this one had a happy ending.

Tomas Holmstrom and Kris Draper scored early in the third period
to lift the Red Wings to a 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators
on Wednesday night in the opening game of their first-round series.

"I was thinking, 'Here we go again,'" said Legace, who made 23
saves in his first playoff start.

For the first two periods, there were striking similarities to
Detroit's playoff appearance last year when a young franchise with
a goalie making his playoff debut rocked a star-studded team.

Tomas Vokoun played like Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and the
Predators looked like the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Giguere set a record for a playoff debut with 63 saves last year
when Anaheim knocked off the Red Wings in Game 1. Anaheim swept
Detroit en route to the Stanley Cup finals.

Vokoun, in his first playoff game, made 18 saves during the
first two periods and finished with 26.

"He made some unreal saves," Legace said.

Vokoun could not turn away the Red Wings when it mattered most,
however.

Draper tied it 37 seconds into the third period, and Holmstrom
scored just over four minutes later. With 1:45 left, Robert Lang also had a goal for the Red Wings, who earned an NHL-best 109
points in the regular season.

Detroit coach Dave Lewis has won 48 games in his first two
seasons, but he had not won a playoff game until Wednesday.

"I guess it's a bit of a relief," Lewis said.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Saturday in Detroit.

In Nashville's first playoff game in its six-season history,
Adam Hall scored 16 seconds into the game -- the quickest Detroit
has been scored on in its playoff history.

Barry Trotz, the only coach the Predators have had, was pleased
his biggest concern was not a factor.

"I was worried how we would start the game," he said. "I was
afraid we would be in awe of the Detroit Red Wings and the
atmosphere."

After Hall scored, Steve Sullivan missed on a penalty shot at
1:31 with the chance to give Nashville a 2-0 lead.

"You couldn't have scripted anything better," Sullivan said.
"If I would've scored, we could've taken the crowd right out of
the game."

Despite the missed opportunity, Detroit's rabid fans were eerily
quiet until Draper scored.

Kirk Maltby fed a pass to Draper, who split two defenders
before scoring from the bottom of the left circle. Holmstrom
redirected Mathieu Schneider's shot for the go-ahead goal.

It didn't appear to help them for two periods, but the Red Wings
have a decided advantage in playoff experience.

They are making their 53rd playoff appearance -- the 14th
consecutive -- and are favorites to win their fourth Stanley Cup in
eight years.

Detroit has 11 players with at least 100 games of playoff
experience. Nashville's Jim McKenzie, who helped New Jersey win the
Stanley Cup last season, played in a team-high 51st postseason
game.

With Dominik Hasek out with a groin injury and Curtis Joseph hobbled for much of the season with an ankle injury, Legace has become Detroit's surprising No. 1 goalie.

The career backup relieved Hasek for the last 11 minutes in one
playoff game -- his only previous postseason game -- when the Red
Wings won their 10th Stanley Cup in 2002.

"I had butterflies," Legace said.

Game notes
Predators RW Scott Walker made his playoff debut after 574
regular-season games. Walker had the second longest streak behind
Guy Charron, who went 734 games without appearing in a postseason
game before he retired in 1981. ... Just after the national anthem,
an octopus was thrown on the ice -- a playoff tradition in Detroit.
... Greg Johnson and Scott Hartnell were credited with assists on
Hall's goal. ... Toronto's Sid Smith scored 17 seconds into a game
won by the Red Wings on March 24, 1955, for the previous fastest
goal against Detroit. ... Hall is a former Michigan State standout.