Nicklas Lidstrom, right, battles with the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in front of goalie Chris Osgood.
Carlos Osorio / AP Enlarge
DETROIT - Johan Franzen scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and Chris Osgood made 31 saves, helping the defending champion Detroit Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Franzen and Brad Stuart had goals last night that went off Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who sat on a shot that trickled in for Detroit's series-clinching goal last year.
Sidney Crosby, though, didn't have such luck when his third-period shot went off Osgood, a post, and landed in the middle of the goalie's back as he lay on the ice.
Detroit rookie Justin Abdelkader scored his first playoff goal early in the third, providing a cushion.
Game 2 is Monday night in Detroit.
Serendipity was on Osgood's side 3 1/2 years ago as he skated off the ice at Joe Louis Arena having defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He'd just seen his counterpart, Fleury, make 36 saves and was impressed - and inspired.
That Dec. 12, 2005, game crystallized for Osgood the need to develop his butterfly to become an all-around better goaltender. He was 33 at the time, had just returned to the Wings after a three-season absence, and wanted to find a way to secure a long-term future in the NHL.
In Fleury, then 21, Osgood saw the answer. As the Wings flew to Atlanta that night, Osgood told his dad, who was along for the father's trip, that's how he needed to learn to play.
"Some guys just rely on their butterfly and not on their athletic ability, but from what I saw then, he mixed both together really well," Osgood said. "He blocks a shot, and he goes with his reflexes when he needs to, goes with his instincts. That was the mix I was looking for.
"You can't be the same goalie your whole career if you want to have a long career."
After working in the shadows of Dominik Hasek, Osgood saw his reinvention pay all the dividends he'd hoped for last spring, when he took over for Hasek during the first round and then took the Wings all the way to the Stanley Cup, besting Fleury in the finals.
"Chris works hard," longtime teammate Kirk Maltby said. "As laid-back as he is, in the summer he prepares himself off the ice. I think he just kind of decided on what he needed to do to stay an elite goalie in this league, and that's what he's done. It's great to see. Coming back from the lockout, a lot of people didn't know what to expect at first, but obviously the last year, the way he came in and played, Chris just proved how much of a professional and how dedicated he is by the way he stepped in in the playoffs."
Now Osgood and Fleury meet again in the finals.
"It'll be fun to play him again because we played each other last year," Osgood said before last night's game. "I thought he played really well. He's just one of those young guys I saw coming up and always thought he'd be a good goalie. He's got a good attitude from what I hear - he's never gotten full of himself and doesn't get too down on himself."
That latter trait has long been one of Osgood's trademarks, and it's why teammates didn't get too concerned when Osgood struggled so mightily during the regular season, finishing with an .887 save percentage. Whatever happens at other times, Osgood has proven he knows how to win in spring.
"We had no doubts whatsoever he was the guy for us," Niklas Kronwall said. "He's showing why he's a Hall of Fame goalie. Just to know that he is going to come up with the saves at the times when you really need it - to know he's back there gives the whole defensive part of the game a lot more calmness."
Osgood is four victories from what would be his fourth Stanley Cup championship, third as a starter. Some of the credit for Osgood being in position to repeat goes to the guy at the opposite end of the ice.