It is tough to say that the Detroit Red Wings had it wrong all these years.
For the most part, one of the NHL’s most storied franchises has had its way with the Nashville Predators ever since the league kicked off its most recent round of expansion in 1998. Nashville had just 31 wins in 81 all-time regular-season meetings and five in 13 postseason matchups.
More often than not, the Red Wings relied on their abundance of skill and tried to overwhelm the Predators with as many shots as they could muster.
Not so this time.
The Predators lost an opportunity to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference quarterfinal series when they fell 3-2 in Game 2 on Friday before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena. Detroit was much more judicious than usual with its offense and managed just 17 shots — its fewest ever against Nashville — but got one lucky bounce when the decisive goal went in off the skate of forward Johan Franzen.
“The only thing I had to do was stop the rims and take the pucks out of my net,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “It was frustrating, but one of those nights when you don’t see a lot of rubber and when you do it’s always a scoring chance.”
The final shot total was 26-17 in Nashville’s favor. The Red Wings’ previous lows in the series were 21 in the regular season (twice, most recently in 2003-04) and 26 in the playoffs.
The last time Detroit had fewer than 20 shots in any playoff game was May 11, 2007 and the last time it had so few was April 23, 2002, when it had 15 in a first-round victory over Vancouver.
It also was just the second time the Predators outshot the Red Wings in a playoff game.
“I think we did a great job of blocking shots when they did get in,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “We did generate a lot. We hung on to the puck behind them, and I thought we had a good forecheck. We were able to get pucks back, force their [defensemen] to turn the puck over and generate some chances.
“We just have to capitalize on them.”
Weber got Nashville within a goal when he scored with 4:44 to play and there were some chances to tie the game after that. Most notably, Andrei Kostitsyn rang a shot off the post, the second time a Predators player did so in the contest.
Prior to that there were six power plays, including 30 seconds of five-on-three in the second period, none of which yielded a goal.
Detroit scored twice in the first period and never trailed. When Kostitsyn did score at 9:01 of the second period and got Nashville within one, 2-1, the Red Wings responded with Franzen’s goal 56 seconds later.
“I think we played a really good, strong game,” right wing Patric Hornqvist said. “But we didn’t execute our chances on the power play and then five-on-five too. If we keep working like we did [Friday] we know we’re going to have success the next game.”
That game, with the series now tied at one win apiece, is a Sunday matinee (11 a.m., NBC) at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where the Red Wings lost just 10 times during the regular season.
“I didn’t think we were as god defensively and I thought we gave up better chances, but I thought we had more puck luck than we did [in Game 1 on Wednesday],” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “… We’ll take the best-of-five and go back to our building and get at 'er.”
The Predators will have to take solace in that their play created a statistical anomaly. They gave it their best shot, but the Red Wings made the most of theirs.
“I thought we played really well,” Rinne said. “They didn’t really get a lot. They were tired. They had to defend a lot, but they did a good job defending. We didn’t give them much offensively.
“It’s obviously frustrating when the score is this way and we created a lot of chances.”