The Wings did what they had to do today and played a textbook game on the way to shutting out Nashville 2-0. The Preds became the fourth team to be eliminated (after the Blues, Islanders and Devils) and never really got going like they did in the first four games of the series.
Curtis Joseph made the start for the Wings and was solid once again while Tomas Vokoun started for his Predators and gave them a chance to win.
The game had a very choppy start, with many stoppages of play in the first minute and a half. The Wings got off two shots in that time but both were fairly easy saves for Vokoun to make and didn’t come with very much pressure.
Then, at 1:26, the Wings struck. Ray Whitney finally got himself on the board when he took a shot from the slot area and had it go off a defenseman. He spun around and the puck came right back to him for another try. The Preds defenseman had sort of given up on the play, thinking the threat was gone but that only served to screen Vokoun for Whitney’s second shot, which ripped by him to make it 1-0 Wings. It was just their 3rd shot on goal and once again, Vokoun was left out to dry by his defense.
Exactly 30 seconds later, the Wings scored again. It was the same line (Whitney/Lang/Yzerman) but this time The Captain finally got on the board. Robert Lang had the puck behind the net and was hardly pressured since Mark Eaton had dropped his stick. He centered the puck to an open Steve Yzerman who chipped the puck in past a helpless Vokoun who was once again left out to dry by his defensemen. It was a trend which continued for much of the game but was the last time Vokoun gave up a goal in such a situation.
Less than a minute later, Tomas Holmstrom created a chance when he came in on the left wing and sent a drop pass to a trailing Kris Draper from behind the net. Draper took a shot and Vokoun made the save but the puck still got through and ended up falling on the goalline where it was knocked away by a Predators defenseman. The play was reviewed and obviously found to be “no goal” but Barry Trotz knew it was time to calm his team down and called a timeout.
Henrik Zetterberg had a chance going in with no help at about 3:50 but he was mugged while trying to maneuver around the Preds defense and ended up on the ice with a Nashville player on his back while swiping at the puck. The Preds came back and finally got their first shot on goal at 4:02 and another seconds later but both were saves by Joseph.
The Wings’ Robert Lang took a penalty at 9:46 that I thought was pretty weak since it looked like Greg Johnson fell more because he lost an edge than because Lang hooked up but the refs decided to call it anyway. The Preds got a good set up going early on and got a good shot off but Joseph made the save and did not allow a rebound. The Preds had a couple more good chances to score but missed the net on them and could not convert.
The Wings took another penalty at 12:44 when Jiri Fischer made himself look like a moron at center ice in roughing up Adam Hall. The Preds were slow in getting set up but did eventually, though it didn’t matter because the Wings killed it off regardless.
The Wings went on the power play at 15:39 when David Legwand couldn’t handle Pavel Datsyuk in his own zone and resorted to cross checking. They got very little going, however, and the Preds killed that off as well. Sometime after the power play was over, Mathieu Dandenault face-washed that little punk Jordin Tootoo while on the Wings’ bench and wasn’t called as he should have been. He really got away with one there and better watch what he’s doing from now on because next time he won’t.
The period wound down to an uneventful finish with the Wings still on top. It was another good 20 minutes for the Wings though they did not dominate as much in it as they did in the first period of Game 5. Shots were 11-5 Wings.
The second period started out with the Preds generating some decent pressure but the Wings came back with the Two Kids and a Goat Line and got some of their own. Vokoun was forced to make two good saves on Pavel Datsyuk when he came in from the right wing on net and the three Wings players had a good shift overall.
Scott Hartnell blew a glorious chance to bring his team within one at about 2:30 when he stepped around Yzerman and had a clear shot at the net but he sent it wide. Yzerman had been looking for a hit and whiffed on it when Hartnell made the move.
The secondary Grind Line of Maltby/Draper/Holmstrom had a great shift a couple minutes in to the period. Shane Hnidy had gotten away with interfering on Kirk Maltby earlier in the shift and couldn’t control himself towards the end of it when he went after Maltby again at 3:37 with a cross check. The Wings got a good set up on the ensuing power play but couldn’t get a goal with the Preds taking players down and getting away with it.
This was about the time I noticed how quiet the Nashville crowd was. I don’t know if it was because of the television broadcast by ABC keeping the ambient noise down or if it was because the Wings were holding the Preds down so well. I suspect it was the latter.
Jiri Fischer got another of his constant penalties at 5:58 and forced the Wings to go on the penalty kill once again. Fortunately, they were up to the task and instead o killing it off in their own zone, they had some very good shorthanded chances. Most notable of these was one of the most lopsided breakaways I have ever seen. Kris Draper took a long bomb pass from Derian Hatcher and had the far side of the red line and the offensive zone all to himself as he broke in on Vokoun. He tried a little move but ended up looking like the Kris Draper of old when he was stoned by the Predators goalie instead of scoring like he has all year on chances like that. I think Draper might have been a little surprised that he had so much space to work with and kind of had a brain freeze. Fortunately for the Preds, Vokoun was fully awake on the play since a goal there would have put them away completely.
The Preds had good pressure going near the half-way mark of the game and got another power play at 10:37. They got no shots off, however, and the Wings killed that off without much trouble.
Pavel Datsyuk had a big chance with about 6:10 left when he undressed Hamhuis and walked in on Vokoun but he was stoned on the play. Soon after that, the crowd began to wake up again and we started to hear some noise though not as many nasty cheers.
Robert Lang took a bad penalty at 16:06 when he tripped David Legwand behind the net in his own offensive zone. Legwand made sure to get his other leg up in the air to get the refs attention and there almost could have been a diving penalty on the play as well. Adam Hall had a huge chance on the power play when the net was left wide open but fumbled the puck and couldn’t get it in. The Preds got a good set up going but again were held to no shots.
The period wound down again with the Wings still on top. All the penalties threw them off on offense but they stayed strong on defense to keep it 2-0. Shots were 9-5 Wings.
The Wings came out and had a good shift with Pavel’s line but the Preds came back with some good pressure of their own. Steve Sullivan was called for cross-checking at 4:34 but I didn’t think the play necessarily warranted a penalty since Sullivan didn’t hit The Captain all that hard and it was more Yzerman’s own momentum that took him into the boards. The Wings took the power play anyway but couldn’t score when the Preds killed it off.
The Preds tried to come on after that but couldn’t get much going because the Wings were playing very tight defensively. They also couldn’t stop the Wings from cycling the puck for long periods of time trying to kill the clock. The Wings kept winning faceoffs and, towards the end of the game, sent the puck down the ice for icing only to win the faceoff again.
After an uneventful finish to the game, the Predators fans stood up and saluted their team in the final minute, realizing their team’s season was over. Those fans should be proud of what their team achieved this year and not be too disappointed in a first round elimination. The Preds did better than anyone outside of Nashville thought they would this year and they’ll get better.
Shots in the third were 6-5 Wings for a total of 26-15 Wings.
Going in to today’s game, this was the only series in which the visiting team had not won a game. That obviously changed today … The Wings have now won their last nine potential playoff clinching games, dating back to losing to the Stars in ’98 … Derian Hatcher had another good game, as did Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg … Steve Thomas disappeared again and only played 5:02. I think he must be hurt because I did not see him after a certain point in the game … Curtis Joseph was solid when he needed to be but was hardly tested throughout the game. It was his 16th career shut out, a category in which he is 3rd all-time behind Patrick Roy (23) and Martin Brodeur (20) … It was Nick Lidstrom’s 162nd consecutive playoff game. He has not missed one since joining the team … There will be a new Stanely Cup champion since the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the New Jersey Devils today … The team with the lead usually kept it in this series since there was only one lead-change throughout it. It was in Game 1 when the Wings scored three in the 3rd period to win 3-1 … If the Flames win tonight at home over the Canucks, they will be the Wings’ next opponent. If they lose they still could be the next opponent but they would have to win Game 7 in Vancouver. If the Canucks end up winning that series, the Wings will face Colorado in Round Two. Neither series is very appealing after the tough time the Wings had with Nashville, though …
Quote of the Day
“Vokoun should be a motivational speaker. He did a great job with us. I just don’t think a guy should spout off like that, especially to this team. But he’s got a future in motivational speaking.”
– Brendan Shanahan in post game interview exercising his right as victor to be a jerk back (I like it!)
Here is the boxscore.