NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ This time, the Detroit Red Wings proved they know
exactly how to finish off the first round of the playoffs.
Ray Whitney and Steve Yzerman scored goals 30 seconds apart in the opening
two minutes, and the Red Wings beat the Nashville Predators 2-0 Saturday in
Game 6 to clinch their first-round series 4-2.
Robert Lang had two assists, and Curtis Joseph stopped 15 shots to earn his
16th career postseason shutout and first with Detroit.
``We just seemed to do what we had to do to win,'' Detroit forward Darren
McCarty said. ``That's what we concentrated on, and we hadn't won a first-round
series in a while so it feels good.''
Actually, it was just two years ago that the Red Wings won a first-round
series en route to their 10th Stanley Cup championship. But this series helped
ease the pain from last year when Anaheim swept Detroit.
That loss had Red Wings fans panicking after Nashville evened the series at
2 behind goalie Tomas Vokoun. His play provided painful flashbacks to
Jean-Sebastien Giguere's dominating performance for Anaheim in 2003.
But the Red Wings finished off the Western Conference first-round series in
style by leading for 115:15 of the final 120 minutes to end Nashville's first
foray into the playoffs. They improved to 8-0 in potential clinching games,
dating to the 1998 Stanley Cup finals.
``I loved this series,'' Detroit coach Dave Lewis said. ``It was great. It
was exactly what we needed.''
Now the regular season's best team will continue its push for a fourth
Stanley Cup title in eight seasons, and the Red Wings will do it with Joseph in
goal. Lewis said he will stick with the veteran for the rest of the playoffs
after Detroit won the last two games to capture the series.
The largest crowd ever at 17,329 squeezed into the Predators home arena, and
fans were armed with inflatable plastic sticks handed out as they arrived. They
tried to help the Predators fend off elimination but couldn't drown out
Detroit's fast start.
The Red Wings ignored the noise and scored on two of their first three shots
to take control and quiet the fans. It was the only game of the series won by
the visiting team.
``Whenever you have an opportunity to close an opponent out, you want to
come out and make a statement early,'' Detroit center Kris Draper said. ``I
think we were able to do that.''
Whitney scored his first goal of the series after his first shot from the
slot bounced off Predators forward Andreas Johansson and back to him for the
second shot, which found the net at 1:26 of the first period.
Lang, who also assisted on the first goal, took advantage when Predators
defenseman Mark Eaton lost his stick near the boards. Lang passed the puck out
to Yzerman in the slot for a goal at 1:56.
Detroit nearly scored again on the next shot by Draper, but the puck went
over Vokoun's back and fell onto the goal line before Brad Bombardir cleared it
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said the Predators had two defensive lapses.
``They capitalized on both chances, and all of a sudden you get a minute and
56 seconds into the game and you're down 2-0 and that's a pretty tough task
against the Red Wings,'' he said.
Nashville had its chances to make it a game but went 0-for-5 on the power
play. The Predators scored only one power-play goal in the series and were hurt
by the loss of defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who was sidelined for all but two
minutes with an upper body injury.