All 20,066 people in Joe Louis arena were stunned. The Nashville Predators took a commanding 3-1 lead in their first round series against the Detroit Red Wings by sweeping both games in Detroit.
The Predators had to overcome poor play early, several terrific runs from Detroit (where it appeared that they would storm back) and also some mediocre work from the referees.
This is the first time in the history of the Nashville Predators’ franchise that the team has held a 3-1 lead in a playoff series.
Physical playoff hockey was the name of the game. Pushing and shoving before, during and after the whistle; coming hard on the forecheck; not just skating to your offensive man, skating through him.
There was no scoring through the first two periods, which greatly benefitted Nashville. Detroit was whipping their asses in every conceivable way, aside from the scoreboard. It was clear which team was the aggressor and which team needed to check itself.
At the start of the third period, just 1:28 into it, David Legwand scored Nashville’s first goal, giving them a 1-0 lead over the Red Wings.
Immediately after this, the referees decided that this was not the case. Upon replay, it was clear that the puck went in the net, there were no penalties and nothing was done wrong by anyone on either side.
But the referees decided that it was not good. Because that makes sense somehow. Apparently the referee’s lost sight of the puck and were not allowed to review the play due to the whistle being blown.
That noise you hear is my eyes rolling very sarcastically.
Regardless, Gabriel Bourque scored Nashville’s second goal just over 20 seconds later, giving Nashville a 1-0 lead (that should have been 2-0). He was assisted by Alexander Radulov.
Now, in a game that is hotly contested, in which goals have been so difficult to come by in the first 42 or so minutes, there’s no way Nashville screws around with this lead, right? Detroit would have to work furiously to get one even close to Rinne, right?
Certainly they wouldn’t get a goal just two minutes after Nashville…right?
Well, less than a minute after the goal was scored, Nashville got called for a very, very ticky-tack too many men on the ice call. Andrei Kostitsyn served the penalty for Nashville.
On this power play, Detroit tied the game at 1-1 with a goal by Jiri Hudler, who was assisted by Niklas Kronwall and Kyle Quincey.
At 6:25 in the third period, Kevin Klein scored the beautiful, go-ahead goal for the Predators. Nashville got a turnover from Detroit in Detroit’s end, and Erat skated all the way down ice, drawing three Red Wings with him to the left side of the net. After Todd Howard reacted, Erat found Klein right in front of a wide open net. 2-1 Predators (should’ve been 3-1, never forget).
Nashville would kill off two more penalties before the end of the game and once the Red Wings went into an empty net situation, Henrik Zetterberg (much to the delight of the crowd) bashed Shea Weber over the face with his stick, which got him a two-minute minor.
Immediately after the face-off from this penalty, the puck was being contested right against the boards behind Todd Howard, and once it was poked free and Detroit was moving up ice with it, David Legwand, in one of the most epic of ninja moments, slapped the puck toward the net right as it was coming by Howard, and scored to give Nashville a 3-1 (4-1 for those counting at home, keeping score of the angry, biased Preds fan in me) advantage with under a minute left.
The Predators can wrap up the series at home on Friday. With the slight extra time off, it gives Hal Gill more time to recover, who was nearly good enough to make the game tonight, but was a late scratch.
Detroit has proven that they are capable of winning in Bridgestone, so this series is still far from over. There is still much work left for the Predators.
But be ready, Detroit, because we are. Smashville is going to be rocking on Friday night with the opportunity to dismiss one of our most hated rivals and move on to the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back years.
Nashville, it’s time to go to work.