The Nashville Predators were able to celebrate their first-ever home playoff game with their first-ever playoff win. Strong goaltending by Tomas Vokoun and the ability to take advantage of some lucky breaks gave the Predators a 3-1 win over the Red Wings.
The Red Wings were undoubtedly the better team early in the game. They skated hard, slipped through the Nashville defense, and challenged Vokoun with plenty of shots on net. They had their best scoring chance of the period during a slashing penalty to Steve Sullivan. Brendan Shanahan threaded a pass across the goal crease to Tomas Holmstrom, but Holmstrom was too well tied up by Brad Bombardir and couldn’t get his stick on the puck.
That same power play, unfortunately, allowed Nashville to get on the scoreboard. The Predators had cleared the puck into Detroit’s zone. Derian Hatcher made a soft back pass to send the puck back up ice, but the puck hit David Legwand‘s skate and stayed in the zone. Legwand was away with the puck, speeding to the front of the net and putting the puck in over the top of Manny Legace‘s shoulder.
Adam Hall made the score 2-0 with only 14.9 seconds left in the period. He picked up the pass from Greg Johnson in the right corner. Mathieu Schneider noticed Hall with the puck and moved towards him, but Hall let his shot go as Schneider stepped into Legace’s sight line.
Nashville seemed content to sit on their lead for the majority of the second period, although Legace was called upon to make big saves against Vladimir Orszagh on a two-on-one rush and Scott Walker on a wraparound attempt. Detroit, for their part, didn’t seem able to muster enough energy to pressure the Predators’ defense.
Brett Hull finally got the Wings into the game early in the third period, at the end of a long shift for his line. Henrik Zetterberg was being held up in the left corner, but he managed to backhand the puck out to Pavel Datsyuk, who tipped the puck towards the front of the net. Hull took two whacks at it, and the second shot deflected off Vokoun’s pads and up into the net.
The Red Wings came out with much more energy after Hull’s goal, but they still didn’t manage to put much traffic in front of the net to screen Vokoun from seeing their shots until very late in the period. By then, it was too late.
Scott Hartnell put the game away for Nashville with 3:57 left. Steve Yzerman was tripped just inside the Predators’ blue line, which allowed a 4-on-2 rush the other way. Hall was able to flip the puck across to Hartnell, who charged the net and banged the puck in between Legace’s skate and the goalpost.
Martin Erat took a holding penalty with 1:56 left to play, and the Red Wings pulled Legace from the net so they could go in six skaters to four, but they were unable to solve Vokoun in the remaining time.
Detroit doubled Nashville’s shots in the course of the game?42 to 21. Game Four of the quarterfinal series will be Tuesday evening in Nashville.