DETROIT (Reuters) - The opening night of the National Hockey League finals was supposed to star Pittsburgh Penguin forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but Detroit goalie Chris Osgood stole the show on Saturday night.
Osgood stopped 31 shots, including a breakaway by Malkin in the second period when the game was tied, backstopping the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-1 victory in the opening game and earning the game’s No. 1 star.
“Huge ... especially at that moment of the game,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of the stop on Malkin. “Momentum could have swung in their favor, but he came up big. He came up big at other occasions later in the game too.”
Osgood has sometimes been overlooked as the goalie for a talented Red Wings team looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in a rematch of last year’s finals with the Penguins.
Detroit won that series 4-2 for its fourth cup since 1997.
But if the Red Wings are to repeat as National Hockey League champions, it will be in no small part due to the 36-year-old netminder.
They took a big step in that direction on Saturday.
Seventy-eight percent of Game One-winning teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup since the seven-game format was introduced in 1939.
Only Ruslan Fedotenko found the net for the Penguins, tucking a backhand shot into the net to tie the game late in the first period.
Osgood made his first important save a minute into the game, stopping an attempt by Maxime Talbot from the side of the cage to keep the game scoreless.
He later got the tip of his catching glove on Malkin’s wristshot to stop the breakaway attempt.
“He’s got a great shot and he can make great moves,” Osgood said after the game. “I was fortunate to get my hand on it.”
Osgood made several key stops on two power plays later in the period, keeping the game tied until Franzen scored.
After Abdelkader made it 3-1 for Detroit, Osgood protected the lead with defiance, stopping a hard slap shot by Kris Letang from 46 feet out and foiling Crosby by the side of the net to leave the crowd chanting “Ozzie Ozzie.”
“They definitely are dangerous and tonight they bounced our way,” Osgood said of the Penguins and the puck.
Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Ian Ransom; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org