Rookie Gabriel Bourque led the Predators with 2 goals in Nashville’s 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings in game one of the Western Conference quarterfinals. The Predators lead the series 1-0. It is the first time in franchise history that the Predators have had a series lead against Detroit in the post season.
In a game that was filled with 34 penalty minutes by the two most disciplined teams during the NHL’s regular season, Nashville went 0 for 6 on the man advantage, and it was the Predators bottom six forwards that powered the Predators past Detroit.
“We just played well defensively and played hard like we did every game. We had a lot of chances. If you play well defensively, you have more chances offensively. That’s what our line did and we had good results,” Bourque said.
Bourque has a history of coming up big in the post season. In 13 games with the Milwaukee Admirals last season, Bourque had 13 points, including 7 goals and 6 assists.
In 2010, Bourque won the Guy Lafleur Trophy, awarded to the player from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League named most valuable player in the playoffs. As a member of the Moncton Wildcats, Bourque had 19 goals and 10 assists in 21 games, despite only picking up 14 points in 25 regular season contests, including 3 goals and 11 assists.
The 21-year old downplayed his performance after the game and admitted to having nerves in his first ever playoff contest.
“I don’t want to talk too fast because it was only one game. I just want to be prepared and try to do my best every game, and the results came. Hopefully I will have another [game] that will be better that I will remember. It is pretty nice to get the first win out of the way,” he said. “At first I was pretty nervous. You see a lot of noise and all that stuff. It was pretty cool. But after a couple of shifts, you feel better on the ice.”
Earlier in the day, Detroit coach Mike Babcock said that with Darren Helm back in the Red Wings lineup, he liked the matchup between Nashville’s third and fourth-line centers Nick Spaling and Paul Gaustad and Detroit’s bottom six.
Helm left the game in the first period when Alexander Radulov’s skate cut his wrist. Nashville’s bottom-six forwards generated all of Nashville’s offense. After the contest, Babcock said the center was sent to the hospital for surgery.
All three goals for Nashville came from the Predators depth, and Bourque said he was unaware of Babcock’s comments before the game.
“I didn’t know. Maybe some guys know it, but I don’t know it. You don’t have to stop there. You have to focus on your game and do your job,” he said.
Gaustad opened the scoring at 6:59 into the first period. Henrik Zetterberg tied the game just 2:29 into the second period on the power play with Roman Josi in the penalty box for cross checking.
Bourque picked up his first goal of the post season at the 12:29 mark of the middle frame frame to give the Predators the 2-1 lead when he got his stick on a Matt Halischuk shot from the point to redirect the puck past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard.
The Predators went up by two goals when Bourque scored his second goal of the game at 11:35 into the third period. Detroit cut the lead in half when Tomas Holmstrom picked up a power play tally with just 2:07 left in regulation. Detroit was unable to find the equalizer and the Predators held on to win the game.
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne made 35 saves. Howard made 23 saves. Game two of the series is on Friday night at 6:30 pm at Bridgestone Arena.