|Cory Emmerton prepares to fire a shot over defenseman Roman Josi in the first period. The goal, Emmerton's first career playoff tally, gave the Wings a 2-0 lead. (Photo by Getty Images) |
– Scoring in his NHL debut last season was so special for Cory Emmerton
that he won’t ever forget the euphoric feeling that accompanied the moment.
However, Friday’s tally in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals may have trumped his first landmark goal by leaps and bounds.
“It’s pretty hard to compare them,” said Emmerton, who scored on the only playoff shot of his career. “It’s a good relief, but the feeling was more that it was an important goal to go up 2-0, so I was happy with whoever scores, but whenever you can score and help out it’s a nice feeling.”
Emmerton made the most out of what little ice-time he got to score the biggest goal as a pro, which helped the Wings even their best-of-seven series at a game apiece with the Nashville Predators.
The Wings also got even-strength goals from Ian White
and Johan Franzen
, and goalie Jimmy Howard
made 24 saves en route to a 3-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena. The series now shifts to Detroit with Game 3 Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
Emmerton’s hustle play late in the first period gave the Wings their first two-goal lead of the game. He started the play by first blocking Kevin Klein’s pass inside the Wings’ blue line. After he wrangled in the puck, Emmerton started a 2-on-1 rush through the neutral zone with fellow rookie Gustav Nyquist
As Preds rookie Roman Josi dropped to the ice in an attempt to take away the pass option, it left the Ontario native all alone against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
“I just tried to get out on the D first and get in the lane and it went off my toe there,” Emmerton said. “I got a fortunate bounce and (Klein) lost his footing so I knew there was a good chance for a 2-on-1. They had good back pressure and I saw the D-man just sliding over because he saw the pressure and I had to make a decision whether to shoot or pass, and usually shooting is a good option.”
Shooting was the best option, especially when Emmerton’s shot hit its intended target – beating Rinne low the blocker side at 15:33 of the opening period. The goal was a huge lift for the team because it came from a secondary forward line. The fourth line also contributed to White’s goal with Drew Miller
and Tomas Holmstrom
“I thought they did a good thing,” coach Mike Babcock said of the bottom six forwards. “They were on for our first two goals, which is real important.”
The overriding theme for the Wings before Game 2 was to get more of a net-front presence in front of the Predators’ crease to disrupt and screen the 6-foot-5 Finnish goaltender.
“I think to be honest our team’s always been about having a guy out in front of the net all the time,” Danny Cleary
said. “We feel that we’ve got a guy built on each line to get there, stay there, hang around there and it’s no different. We’ve had this formula of having a guy out in front of the net for a long time here.”
The Wings certainly got guys in front of the net when White and Franzen scored. White’s goal gave Detroit a 1-0 lead. But Emmerton’s goal was a shot in the arm for the Wings, and real confidence boost for a guy who logged the least among of ice-time in the game.
“Yeah, after last game I didn’t get to play much with all of the penalties and what not and really didn’t get into much of a rhythm,” said Emmerton, who had 5:17 of ice-time n 10 shifts.
“Tonight, early we got to play a bit then the penalties took over again. The most important thing is when you’re out there to play simple and be hard to play against and do what you can. Just get into a groove and roll four lines.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose