NHL

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nashville tuned in

Pesky Predators push Red Wings to brink of elimination Desperate times for Detroit

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DETROIT -- There's no mystery why the Detroit Red Wings find themselves a loss away from NHL playoff elimination.

Superior goaltending and more opportunistic finishing were the story once again Tuesday as the Nashville Predators downed Detroit 3-1 to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference quarter-final.

Detroit badly outshot Nashville for the second straight game (41-17), but got nothing to show for it.

"We spent a ton of time in their zone," said Wings coach Mike Babcock seemingly not believing his team could outshoot the Predators 84-39 in two homes and get swept. "You can't keep playing like this, having the puck all the time, and have the other team beat you."

Oh yes you can when Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is dominating your offence while your own goalie, Jimmy Howard, hasn't been able to match his near flawless peer at the other end.

Rinne is stirring up bad memories of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who had a .964 save percentage in leading the Babcock-coached Anaheim Ducks to a four-game upset of Detroit in 2003. Rinne isn't quite in that stratosphere, but he has a .942 save percentage through four games.

"We got 40 shots and a lot of them are quality chances," Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "It's tough when we're getting chances and chances and chances and then they go up and they score.

"The momentum really goes over to their side and it's tough to fight back."

Rinne was particularly tough in the first two periods as Detroit outshot the Predators 28-10. However, you could sense Detroit's patience was starting to waiver.

As time slipped away and the Predators continued to succeed in keeping it scoreless, there was a sense Detroit was leaving its season vulnerable to one mistake heading into the third period. Those mistakes did come.

"I think we've been patient for most of the time, but then we have some breakdowns when we were going offensively and slipping a bit at the back," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.

"They get those odd-man rushes. They're very good at reading those and jumping out to get those chances."

Howard looked like he'd fallen asleep early in the third period when he allowed David Legwand's trickler from behind the net to beat him at 1:28 only to be saved by a quick whistle.

However, Detroit never got the puck out after the faceoff and Gabriel Bourque scored at 1:55. Detroit's Jiri Hudler tied it with a power-play goal at 3:14, but the Wings gave away the game with some atrocious defending.

Ian White was on the wrong side of the ice and then joined Lidstrom and Jiri Hudler in chasing Martin Erat, who posed no danger going off to the left corner. Howard overplayed Erat leaving Nashville's Kevin Klein with an empty net to shoot the puck into at 6:25.

"We played well enough to win," defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. "We're making some huge mistakes and giving them freebies."

Legwand finished off Detroit when he poke-checked Cleary and the puck slipped through Howard's legs for another softy on a power play.

-- Postmedia News

more nhl coverage c2-3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2012 C1

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