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Preds end Wings' season

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 151 shots in leading the Predators over the Red Wings in an opening round playoff series. (Photo by Getty Images)
The Red Wings did what they wanted to early Friday – weathering the first 10-minutes of the opening period against the Nashville Predators – but in the end winning small battles didn't help win the war.

“Ónly getting a goal each in the last couple of games where we had some gifts defensively with some defensive breakdowns that they scored on, it’s tough against a very good team like Nashville,” Lidstrom said. “I thought we sharpened up in the second and you know they scored in the third right off the bat, on the first shift, but I thought we were coming back in the second period and were playing a lot better, but we couldn’t get that second effort in the third period.”

The Predators got goals by forwards Alexander Radulov and David Legwand, and goalie Pekka Rinne was brilliant again in making 21 saves in claiming a 2-1 victory that eliminated the Wings in five games of an opening round series of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Like the previous four games of the series, the team that scored first won the game. And Nashville scored first when Radulov beat Jimmy Howard at 16:10 of the first period.

The Wings keep things close, despite getting just 22 shots on goal against Rinne, who made 151 saves in the series. Without a single second chance shot opportunity in front of Rinne, the best chances in front of the crease came on Valtteri Filppula’s quasi-breakaway in the first and Jonathan Ericsson, who was stopped from close-range in the second.

“I thought we did tons of good things through four games. I didn't like us tonight,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought (Henrik) Zetterberg was fantastic in the series and his group. I didn't think we had much depth up front and I thought it really showed, showed in our scoring.”

All season the Wings were one of the league’s most dominant even-strength teams. But in this series, the Predators outscored them 11-4 at even-strength. Some of that was because the Wings were without speedy center Darren Helm, who suffered lacerated tendons in his right forearm in Game 1 and was lost for the rest of the season following emergency surgery last week in Nashville.

Helm returned from a sprained knee in time for the start of the playoffs, giving the Wings’ bottom six forwards a boast with his aggressiveness on the forecheck.

“Coming into the series, I was real excited to be getting Helm back because I thought that allowed us to match up better,” Babcock said. “In the end when it didn't go right for him, I thought that hurt us. You have to be deep enough to handle injuries. We obviously were not.

“The disappointing part for us as a group here and for me is that we looked like we were having a way better year than I anticipated. Coming in, I thought we'd be scratching and clawing to make the playoffs and I thought we did a ton of good things. We never really scored again after we lost. We lost a bunch of guys and we lost Helm, we never got to a level we'd like to have gotten to.”

But Friday, the Wings fought back and got a game-tying goal from Jiri Hudler, who managed to tip his second goal of the series past Rinne late in the second period.

“Yeah, we were right back in it when he scored,” said Lidstrom of Hudler’s goal. “I thought we had some other chances as well, but we got the tying goal that we wanted for that second intermission, but they responded on that first shift in the third and we couldn’t get back.”

Legwand’s goal was devastating, especially since it gave the Predators a one-goal lead 13-seconds into the final period.

“I pushed across and then I had two guys go in front of me and I never saw the shot,” Howards said. “Bittersweet. … This team, this organization is measured by the playoffs and how far you go in the playoffs. I fully understand that and would have liked to have a better outcome.”

For a team that did so many good things and won 23 straight home games, which established a new NHL record, the disappointment of the quickest first-round exit since being swept by the Babcock-led Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003 will sting for a while.

“I think guys are still pretty in shock that this thing's over and we're starting the summertime,” Howard said. “But looking back on the year, I thought we did a great job. Things just didn't go right.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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