DETROIT -- Marc-Andre Fleury knew that this could happen.
Heck, he had discussed it at some length just two days earlier.
But realizing the boards at Joe Louis Arena can make life miserable for a goaltender doesn't necessarily translate to being able to prevent it, as Fleury was reminded during the Penguins' 3-1 loss to Detroit in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final last night.
Twice, in fact.
The Red Wings' first two goals stemmed directly from pucks bouncing off the back boards at something approaching warp speed.
On the first, the carom of a Brad Stuart shot from the left point that sailed wide of the near post caromed off Fleury and into the net. On the second, Johan Franzen corralled a Brian Rafalski shot that missed on the right side and banked the puck off Fleury's left leg, and into the net, as Fleury's sprawled on his stomach in the crease.
• Matchup: Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings, 8:08 p.m. tonight, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.
• TV, radio: WPXI, WXDX-FM (105.9).
• Series: Detroit leads, 1-0.
• Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Chris Osgood for Red Wings.
• Penguins: Are 2-1 in Game 2s. ... Were 6-3 when opponents scored first after last night. ... C Jordan Staal had 4 points vs. Detroit in regular season, most from either team in two games.
• Red Wings: Are 2-1 with an OT win in Game 2s. ... Are 9-1 when scoring first after last night. ... RW Johan Franzen was plus-22 over past 32 playoff games before last night.
• Hidden stat: Detroit had not been involved in a two-goal game going into last night.
"It happens," Fleury said. "I'll try to forget about it. Watch the tape and see if I can do something else."
He won't have much time to contemplate those adjustments, however, because Game 2 will be tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings, predictably, weren't terribly sympathetic about the problems caused by the boards.
"Every building you go into there are little nuances, and you try to take advantage of them the best you possibly can," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Fleury's troubles with pucks coming off the boards cost the Penguins an opportunity to grab an early advantage in the series, because they competed evenly with the Red Wings for most of the game, and actually outplayed them at times.
That was particularly true during the second period, even though Franzen's winner was the only goal scored by either team then.
"We know that if we play [tonight)] like we did in the second period, we like our chances," forward Max Talbot said.
Perhaps, but the Penguins also have to realize that they turned in 60 minutes of solid work last night and got nothing but frustration to show for it.
"We had a lot of quality chances and carried the play for stretches," forward Craig Adams said. "They got a couple of good bounces, and we easily could have gotten a couple more goals. Right now, it feels like a missed opportunity."
Which it should, but not solely because of Fleury's misadventures with the boards. The Penguins were able to put one of 32 shots behind Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, with Evgeni Malkin's inability to convert a breakaway early in the second period an especially costly failure.
"Their goalie played well, and we were unlucky a couple of times," Adams said.
Ruslan Fedotenko got the Penguins' only goal when, at 18:37 of the first period, Osgood failed to control the rebound of a Malkin shot, allowing Fedotenko to gain possession and backhand it into the net.
"I just got lucky, was first to the puck and put it in the net," Fedotenko said.
While Osgood was the Red Wings' best player, Fedotenko believes the Penguins didn't test him as often or as seriously as they will have to.
"We need to find a way to get better quality shots on him," he said.
They might also want to try to figure out how to win an occasional faceoff -- Detroit was 39-16 on draws -- and to generate more than token pressure on the power play. The Penguins had just two chances with the extra man, but got a total of only one shot from those opportunities.
"We did a lot of good things, but, when you look at the game, we think there are areas we need to do better," Bylsma said. "And we need to do better if we're going to continue to have success, or have success, in this series. "
So, despite the loss in Game 1, the Penguins will enter Game 2 confident that they can play better. Well enough to return home with a split that would give them the home-ice advantage in what would amount to a best-of-five series.
"When you go on the road for the first two games, you want to win one of them," Talbot said. "And there's still one game in front of us."
SECOND PERIOD/3:24: With the score tied, 1-1, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin steals the puck off Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall at the Penguins' blue line. Kronwall falls down and that sets Malkin free on a breakaway. Malkin races in, approaches net and shoots with his forehand. Osgood gets a piece of it with his glove and steers the puck away. The Penguins could've taken a lead at this point and controlled momentum. Instead, Detroit went up by a goal later in the period and never looked back.
Dave Molinari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org First Published May 31, 2009 4:00 AM