Photo by John Russell
Paul Kariya's hat trick was his first as a Predator and the ninth of his NHL career.
After trailing 1-0, the Nashville Predators scored six unanswered goals--including a hat trick by Paul Kariya--to run away with a 6-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Gaylord Entertainment Center Tuesday. Martin Erat
and David Legwand
each added a goal and two assists in the victory, which concluded the Predators' regular season schedule on a six-game winning streak and finalized their overall season record at 49-25-8.
A lengthy five-on-three advantage early in the second period allowed the Predators to score twice--first tying the game, then taking a 2-1 lead--within a 21-second span. After that, the duo of Kariya and Legwand looked superb together. Twice Legwand set up Kariya for goals on two-on-one breaks, and those bookended Legwand's conversion of a Kariya pass. Mike Sillinger's forechecking resulted in a goal that pushed the Predators' scoreboard total to six. Detroit added two power-play tallies late in the third but couldn't spoil goaltender Chris Mason's sixth straight win.
"It's a meaningless game standings-wise, but it's really important for us to keep our momentum going in [to the playoffs]," Mason said. "Especially against Detroit, who we have a good rivalry with.
"They've won 12 straight road games which is an NHL record," he continued. "They cared. They didn't come in here giving us the two points. We took it. That says a lot for our guys. We sat a couple guys that needed it. [Kariya] could have taken the night off if he wanted. He came and played. It just shows that hopefully we're ready here."
Nashville will open its Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff series against the San Jose Sharks at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Game 2 will take place noon Sunday at the GEC. Tickets remain for both contests, and can be ordered by calling (615) 770-PUCK, ordering online, or visiting the GEC box office or any Ticketmaster outlet. For the first-round schedule, see the 2006 Playoff Schedule page.
The turning point of Tuesday's game came at 4:16 of the second period, after more than a minute and a half of a fruitless five-on-three power play. A penalty whistled against Detroit's Kirk Maltby for sending the puck over the glass from the Red Wings' zone stopped play, and Predators head coach Barry Trotz called his one allotted time out.
"The first five-on-three, we saw what they were doing," Trotz said. "We talked on the bench real quickly and I called the time out. [Assistant coach] Peter [Horachek] got the guys and made the slight adjustment for the five-on-three. We were able to capitalize on it. Obviously they took another penalty and we capitalized on that. It sort of turned the tide for the game."
Kariya, who had had what he considered a sure goal waved off 2:41 into the period, played catch with defenseman Kimmo Timonen on the right side of the ice before beating goaltender Chris Osgood with a shot from the right face-off dot at 4:29. Twenty-one seconds later, the same power-play unit struck again--this time from the left side--when Erat deftly deflected Shea Weber's hard point shot past Osgood.
"If you've got it, you have to capitalize on it because it doesn't happen every game," Erat said of the two-man advantage.
"We had to just calm down," he added in reference to the time out. "You know what you have to do. You are just reminded of some things and do it."
The reunited line of Erat, Kariya and Legwand--a trio that started the season together--effectively used its speed to cause problems for Detroit. On each of the three goals they generated, Legwand and Kariya used pinpoint cross-ice passing to school the Detroit defense and catch Osgood helplessly out of position.
"It was a good game I think for us," Legwand said. "Paul is getting to the areas that I can find him...on the two-on-ones. Get the d-men to turn like that, it's an easy pass. He's going to put it in the open net every time you give him that puck.
Kariya's four points Tuesday brought his season total to 85 in 82 games--his highest point total since 1999-2000--and he was enjoying himself in his most productive game of the season.
"We were skating really well," Kariya said of his line. "[Legwand] was flying out there and really created a lot of room for Marty and I. When you get those types of opportunities, it's fun to play hockey like that."
Notes: Nashville's six goals are the most the Predators have ever scored against Detroit... The Predators closed out the season winning six games in a row, outscoring their opponents 22-7 in that span. Chris Mason has been in net for all six wins... Martin Erat scored to reach the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career. He became the fifth Predator to hit 20 goals this season. His 49 points (20g-29a) is a new career-high... Paul Kariya's hat trick was his first since Oct. 31, 2002. His three goals brought him to 31 on the season, giving him 30 or more goals for the seventh time in his career. His 85 points (31g-54a) are the most ever by a Predator. He posted seven points (3g-4a) over his last three games... David Legwand's goal and two assists marked his second three-point game of the season. Of his seven goals this season, five were game-winners. Nashville went 30-9-5 with him in the lineup... Shea Weber's two assists marked his third two-point game in his last six (2g-4a=6pts)... Kimmo Timonen's two assists lifted him to his first 50-point season (11g-39a)... Predators penalty killers went 49 of 53 (92 percent) over their last eight games, while the power play was five-for-20 (25 percent) over the last three... Nashville set records in the following categories during the 2005-06 regular season: wins (49-25-8), points (106), home wins (32-8-1), goals (259), and power-play goals (94)... The Predators' 32 home wins were the most in the league... Nashville finished the season 23-11-2 when allowing the first goal, 30-1-4 when leading after two periods, and 4-4-0 against Detroit... The Predators went 23-8-1 against the Central Division and finished April with a 7-2-0 record, giving them a winning record for every month except February, when they went 3-4-0... Scratches for Nashville were Tomas Vokoun, Marek Zidlicky, Darcy Hordichuk, Brendan Witt, Steve Sullivan, Vernon Fiddler, and Yanic Perreault... Attendance at the GEC was 17,113--a sellout.
Video: Watch the game highlights (1:38)
Audio: Listen to head coach Barry Trotz's post-game press conference (6:22)
Official Super Stats