NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Once again, the Red Wings pulled together when it counted, and their opponents weren't quite prepared to deal with it. The Red Wings struck early to take a 2-0 lead over the Nashville Predators, then they held onto it for the rest of the game to win the quarterfinal series four games to two.
Nashville's fans were on hand and louder than ever to start the game, looking to cheer their team on to an early start. The Red Wings were able to ignore the fans and take control early. In fact, the fans were calling their now-infamous "Chelios is a wussy" chant when Ray Whitney put Detroit on the scoreboard.
Steve Yzerman made a sharp centering pass from the right corner, and Whitney fired hard from the high slot. The puck was blocked by defenseman Andreas Johansson, but came right back to Whitney. Whitney's second shot cleared Johansson and sailed past goalie Tomas Vokoun at 1:26.
Yzerman cemented the lead just 30 seconds later. Robert Lang worked the puck out from behind Mark Eaton's dropped stick along the back boards, held off Eaton with one arm, and centered the puck with the other arm. Yzerman was pushing towards the net with no one to keep an eye on him, and it looked like a relatively simple matter for him to lift the puck up and over Vokoun.
Kris Draper nearly made the score 3-0 shortly thereafter with a shot off a drop pass from Tomas Holmstrom. The puck made it over Vokoun and landed on the goal line, but defenseman Brad Bombardir was able to clear it away before it crossed the line. Nashville called their timeout to calm down after that.
The Predators should have had their best chances to score during the second period, when they had three consecutive power plays, but they simply weren't able to put their shots on net. David Legwand and Scott Walker both had scoring chances, but their shots went wide of Curtis Joseph. The Red Wings' penalty killers did a good job of making sure the passing lanes were blocked and letting Joseph see each shot that did make its way through.
Detroit picked up their pressure again in the third period. They weren't exactly testing Vokoun?they had only six shots on net in the third?but they were controlling the puck, picking off passes, and keeping the Predators from ever getting a clear shot against Joseph.
Nashville's best chance came when Jason York had a screened shot from the right point, but Joseph was ready with the save.
The Predators pulled Vokoun for the extra skater with nearly two minutes remaining, but it did them no good. The Red Wings continued their careful control and kept the score at 2-0.
Detroit outshot Nashville by a count of 26 to 15. The Wings continued their dominance on faceoffs, winning 43 out of 70.
The Red Wings' opponent for the Western Conference Semi-Finals could be either the Colorado Avalanche or the Calgary Flames, depending on whether or not the Flames manage to win their series against the Vancouver Canucks. The semi-finals are scheduled to start Thursday.
Notes: Yzerman's goal was his 68th playoff goal, moving him past Gordie Howe into first place as the Red Wings' all-time leading playoff goal scorer?. This was Joseph's 16th career playoff shutout?. Game attendance was 17,329, marking the Predators' largest crowd ever.