By Steve Keating
DETROIT (Reuters) - Jimmy Howard earned a shutout and Pavel Datsyuk claimed a so-called Gordie Howe hat-trick as the Detroit Red Wings opened the new season in ruthless style, blasting the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 on Friday.
Howard, a Calder trophy finalist last year as the NHL's top rookie, showed no signs of a sophomore jinx, stopping 21 shots to notch his fourth career shutout.
But it was Datsyuk's Gordie Howe hat-trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight -- that had Joe Louis Arena buzzing.
Howe, a Hall of Famer regarded as one of the toughest players to ever lace up a pair of skates, was feared both as a scorer and fighter.
Datsyuk, a four-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy that goes to the NHL's most gentlemanly player, may well be the most unlikely player to ever record a Gordie Howe hat-trick.
After picking up a goal and an assist in the second period, Datsyuk showed a seldom seen feisty side in the third, taking on Ducks tough guy Corey Perry and drawing a standing ovation from the capacity crowd and his team mates.
"I'm happy to have a Gordie Howe hat-trick but it's not my best dream," said Datsyuk. "I did not win the Lady Byng last year. Now I can open my game...but not too much, don't worry.
"I have a new record, a Gordie Howe hat-trick. Now after every game are you going to ask me why I don't fight?"
One of the Red Wings' top scorers, Datsyuk is better known for his soft hands than his fists and Wings coach Mike Babcock said he does not care to see the Russian drop his gloves.
Datsyuk has never had more than 35 penalty minutes in any of his eight NHL seasons while racking up 594 points, including 199 goals.
"Too bad for him, now he can't win the Lady Byng," joked Babcock. "Obviously he's a real good player and he's real strong but I don't need to see Pav fight anymore.
"It was just one of those situations where they got frustrated and things happen."
Johan Franzen and Mike Modano and Dan Cleary also scored for the Wings.
Modano, a Michigan native who spent 20 seasons with the Minnesota and Dallas Stars becoming the highest-scoring American-born NHL player of all-time, collected career goal 558 but his first as a Red Wing, fluttering a wrist-shot past a screened Jonas Hiller.
It was a perfect homecoming for the 40-year-old, seven-time All-Star, who grew up in nearby Livonia supporting the Red Wings.
"I didn't sleep much last night and this afternoon was a little restless as well," said Modano, who scored on his first shot. "I wanted to get here, get prepared and get ready and get that first period out of the way.
"It was a great start and then I was able to relax and enjoy the moment a little bit more."
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)