Wings Blank Preds to Clinch Central Division

"At that point in the game, we really wanted to send a message." -Barrett Jackman of the St. Louis Blues, on Saturday's classless attempt at sore loser revenge on the Red Wings

Well, Barrett, here's the response to your "message": Have fun with the Avalanche or Canucks in Round One. The Red Wings ensured themselves the Central Division banner and at least third seed in the standings with a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

The Predators, out of the playoffs altogether, proved to be a tough opponent to crack. Part of the problem, obviously, was the lack of energy which seems to be inherent when playing a team which cannot make the playoffs. However, the Predators always bring their best game when they have to play the Red Wings, and tonight was just the same.

The first period started at a slow pace. The Red Wings had some penalties to kill off, but they did so skillfully, and Curtis Joseph was sharp and ready to stop any shots which made it through to his net.

When the Red Wings got a power play chance of their own midway through the second period, they showed once again why they have the highest ranked power play in the NHL. Pavel Datsyuk made a pass up to Sergei Fedorov in front of the net. Fedorov rang a hard shot off the goal post, but Steve Yzerman was waiting on the other side of the goal crease to grab up the rebound and stuff it into the net past goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

The Predators had a good chance to tie the game up in the third period. Tomas Holmstrom was sent to the penalty box for a high-sticking double minor penalty, but the Red Wings' penalty killers did an excellent job of playing "keep-away" with the puck and not letting Nashville get set up. In fact, the best scoring chance on the Nashville power play was for Detroit, when Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby stole the puck and sped up the ice on a two-on-one rush.

Fedorov added his 33rd goal of the season to increase Detroit's lead to two with 6:49 left to play. The Red Wings were on a power play, with Karlis Skrastins in the penalty box for holding. Holmstrom brought the puck back towards the blue line, then made the pass across to Fedorov. Fedorov rifled a hard shot towards the net. The puck deflected just slightly off the stick of a Nashville player, and lifted up and over Vokoun into the net.

The Predators pulled Vokoun from net for an extra skater with 1:26 left to play, but again, the Red Wings puck control was excellent. Brett Hull made a rinkwide pass to Henrik Zetterberg, skating up the left wing side. Zetterberg carried the puck into the Nashville zone and flipped it into the empty net to put the game away.

Shots on net were 27 to 24 in Nashville's favor. The Red Wings' next game will be Thursday night against the New York Islanders.


Notes: Assistant coach Joey Kocur was suspended for two games for throwing a folding chair onto the ice during the brawl at the end of Saturday's game in St. Louis"¦. Zetterberg's goal was the first empty net goal of his young career"¦. The shutout was the 41st of Joseph's career and his second in the past week"¦. Fedorov's goal was the 397th of his career. Hmmm, can we fit in one more milestone before the end of the season?

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