The Nashville Predators defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 at the Bridgestone Arena in the first game of their quarter final series.
It wasn't easy.
The Predators committed 8 penalties and the Red Wings capitalized on 2 of their power plays. The Predators scored all their goals at even strength, and were 0-6 on their man advantage opportunities.
The Wings out shot the Predators 37-26, and Pekka Rinne made some huge saves for the Predators for the win. Jimmy Howard was in net for the Wings, and mad e some good stops as well, but not enough for the Wings to capture the win.
The Predators were the more physical team, and they punished the Wings throughout the game. Their physical play may come back to haunt them however, as Henrik Zetterberg hit Shea Weber from behind into the boards at the final horn and Weber responded by slamming Zetterberg's head into the glass. Zetterberg was not hurt on the play, but acted as if he had been shot. It remains to be seen whether Weber will face any disciplinary action.
The Predators opened the scoring at 6:59 of the first period as Paul Gaustad retrieved the puck in the corner and walked out toward the net. He threw the puck at the net and it caromed off the skate of Brad Stuart and past Howard to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
The Wings answered at 2:29 of the second period on the power play as Rinne gave up a rebound and Henrik Zetterberg beat Nick Spaling to the puck and banged it past Rinne to tie the game at 1.
The Predators regained the lead at 12:29 of the second period as Matt Halishcuk skated in over the blue line and fired a puck toward the net. The puck was re-directed off the stick of Gabriel Bourque and over the shoulder of Howard to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.
The Predators stretched their lead to 3-1 as Patric Hornqvist battled for a puck behind the net. Hornqvist won that battle and fed the puck to Bourque who was cruising down the slot. Bourque's one timer beat Howard to give the Predators a cushion that they would need.
Once again, the Predators lack of discipline cost them as the Wings tallied their second power play goal. This score came with 2:07 remaining in the game as Tomas Holmstrom would bang home a shot to make the score 3-2.
The wings pulled Howard with 1:29 remaining for the extra attacker. The Predators made the final seconds more challenging as they committed their 8th penalty. Marty Erat was called for a weak holding call, but nevertheless the Wings were skating 6 on 4. The Predators were able kill off the power play and claimed a 1-0 lead in what will be a contentious series.
The Predators were extremely strong at even strength. In fact, I will venture to say that the Wings cannot beat the Predators at even strength. There is that matter of penalties, though.
Committing 8 penalties against the Wings is not a formula for success in this series. In is incumbent that the Predators play with more discipline and stop the march to the penalty box. The Predators were fortunate that they gave up only 2 power play goals. Sitting in the box against the Wings in the remaining games will bite the Predators.
The Predators did what they needed to do in game one, and that is get the win. The way they did it was, frankly, lucky.
They are the better team, top to bottom. But allowing the Wings the ability to play with the man advantage for much of the game will lead to problems- and losses- for the Predators over the course of a long series.
It is time for the Predators to evaluate their game and stop the unnecessary penalties. None of the penalties tonight were "good" penalties, that is, preventing a scoring opportunity. They were undisciplined penalties. Limit those, and this series is there for the Predators to capture.
The play of the third line, which I said would be pivotal, was just that tonight. Gabriel Bourque was outstanding, and played with a maturity and jump that belied his rookie status. I look for Bourque and his line mates to continue to have a positive impact in this series.
It will be important for the Predators to get their top two lines going in this series. They were for the most invisible tonight. They have too much talent not to produce quality scoring chances.
This will not be an easy series by any stretch, but it is a series that the Predators have for the taking.
It is up to the Predators to seize the opportunity.
My three stars:
1. Gabriel Bourque
2. Pekka Rinne
3. Paul Gaustad