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Red Wings take early lead, hold on to even series with Nashville

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE -- The early lead in any playoff game is a big deal, but particularly so in a series with defense-first teams like Detroit and Nashville.

The Red Wings got the fast start Friday night and rode that cushion to a 3-2 win over the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, evening the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series at 1-1.

"Two goals was very important," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "To get that cushion really helped our team."

Ian White and Cory Emmerton gave Detroit the early advantage, while Johan Franzen provided the eventual game-winner halfway through the second period. Goalkeeper Jimmy Howard made 24 saves.

Nashville pulled within a goal on Shea Weber's backhander with 4:44 remaining in the game but couldn't draw even. Andrei Kostitsyn beat Howard shortly after Weber's goal, but his wrister clanged off the goalpost.

The Predators outshot the Red Wings 26-17, but as was the case in Game 1, when Detroit owned a 37-26 advantage in shots, the team that created the most opportunities didn't prevail.

"They had good puck luck in Game 1, and tonight they didn't have it," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Nashville. "They created some really good opportunities, but they didn't have that seeing-eye goal tonight. They had two in Game 1."

Detroit took a page out of Nashville's book to grab a 2-0 lead after one period, getting goals from unexpected sources -- as the Predators did in capturing a 3-2 victory Wednesday night in Game 1.

White snapped a high slot wrist shot past Pekka Rinne at 8:25 off feeds from Tomas Holmstrom and Drew Miller. It was White's second career playoff goal in 19 games.

Emmerton made it a two-goal advantage at the 15:33 mark, blocking a Kevin Klein shot at the blue line, retrieving the puck and then zipping a wrister from the left faceoff circle through Rinne's stick side. Emmerton, who scored just six goals in 71 matches, was appearing in just his second playoff game.

"One-goal leads aren't as much fun as two," Emmerton said. "That's why I was glad to get that one -- not just for myself, but for the team. You knew they were going to push hard on the home ice."

Nashville buzzed the net for most of the second period, aided by 5 1/2 minutes of power play time during the period's first 6:04 as Jiri Hudler, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall took penalties. But its half-dozen shots on Howard failed to dent the net, sparking booing from its normally supportive crowd.

Kostitsyn fired up the audience at 9:01, beating Howard on a wrist shot to his glove side off assists from Alexander Radulov and David Legwand. But that momentum boost lasted all of 56 seconds.

Franzen tipped in Brad Stuart's shot from the left faceoff circle, the 38th career playoff goal for a man who makes his living fighting rush-hour traffic at the net's mouth, to restore a two-goal lead.

For Predators coach Barry Trotz, that goal was a killer.

"You score and make it 2-1, and you have a chance to keep that momentum going," he said. "Then they score a minute later. You've got to carry that momentum longer than 56 seconds. You have to seize that moment every time you're out there."

Nashville's inability to convert with the man advantage was critical. It missed on six straight chances for the second straight game after leading the NHL on the power play in the regular season.

However, Trotz and Babcock both agreed things could have gone differently had the puck bounced another way.

"I thought we could have scored three goals on the power play tonight," Trotz said. "We were much more dangerous."

But dangerous didn't translate into goals. Now the series heads to Joe Louis Arena, where Detroit won 23 straight games at one point this season and went 31-7-3, for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday night.

"We've got a great opportunity now," Babcock said. "It's a best-of-five and we have three games at home."

NOTES: Nashville D Hal Gill sat out for the second straight game with a lower-body injury, and his status for the rest of the series is unknown. ... Detroit's third-line center, Darren Helm, is done for the season after undergoing surgery Wednesday night at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to repair severed tendons in his forearm after being injured in the first period of Game 1. ... Country music star Vince Gill performed between the first and second periods, getting laughs from the sellout crowd when he started a chant of "Bertuzzi is a sissy," aimed at Red Wings RW Todd Bertuzzi. Aiming to send a message to Weber, who slammed Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass as Game 1 ended and was fined $2,500 by the NHL, Bertuzzi fought Weber 96 seconds into the game.
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