NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The Red Wings felt they had nothing left to prove. The Nashville Predators wanted to finish the regular season having at least beaten Detroit once on their own ice.
Paul Kariya’s first goal was denied by video review, but he scored three more that counted for his ninth career hat trick, and the Nashville Predators snapped the Detroit’s 20-game points streak with a 6-3 victory Tuesday night.
The Red Wings, with the Presidents Cup already in hand, hadn’t lost in regulation since March 7 when they fell 5-2 to Phoenix. They came into the regular-season finale with a chance to match the 1979-80 Montreal Canadiens’ streak of at least one point in 21 straight games.
“We’ve been playing some games here for a while now that haven’t really meant anything standing-wise,” said Detroit center Kris Draper. “Now everything’s over and done with. The playoffs are coming.”
“You didn’t see the true Red Wings tonight, but the main thing tonight was to keep our game on track for the playoffs,” Nashville right wing Scott Walker said.
The Predators did just that by winning their sixth straight game and finishing with the NHL’s best home record at 32-8-1 by downing the league’s best road team. They evened the season series at 4-4 between the teams with their first victory over Detroit in Nashville.
Nashville now opens the playoffs Friday night hosting San Jose.
“This place is great to play in,” Kariya said. “That’s why home-ice is so important. It’s nice to be playing this way, but we need to pick our game up a lot in the playoffs. It’s a whole new season.”
Detroit also starts Friday at home against Edmonton, and it’s about time for the Red Wings.
“It doesn’t hurt a team that’s been winning as much as we have to understand how hard it is to win in the league, and if you don’t bring your best game, you don’t win,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
The Predators took control by scoring four second-period goals, including two within 31 seconds off consecutive two-man advantages. Martin Erat scored a power-play goal and had an assist, and David Legwand had a goal and two assists as their line with Kariya combined for 10 points.
Draper had a goal and an assist, and Mikael Samuelsson and Jason Williams each added late power-play goals. Draper’s 10th of the season put Detroit up 1-0 after the first, making sure the Red Wings finished the regular season as the only NHL team not to be shut out.
But the Red Wings started trooping to the penalty box within the first minute of the second starting with Brendan Shanahan with a double-minor for high-sticking.
Kariya thought he had tied it at 1-1 at 2:41 after sliding the puck off Osgood’s right pad as he sprawled across the ice. The puck trickled over the line and was reviewed, but ruled to be not a goal.
When Cory Cross joined Shanahan in the box for interference, Kariya scored at 4:29 from the right circle. Nashville kept the two-man advantage with Kirk Maltby penalized for delay of game, and Erat scored from in front by tipping in Weber’s shot at 4:50.
Kariya scored his second at 9:45 when Legwand passed the puck to him in the right circle from the left circle, and Kariya returned the favor at 16:03 by finding Legwand for his seventh.
“We were getting a little bit embarrassed out there,” Draper said. “We battled back a little bit and kind of made the score not as bad.
The Red Wings also were the last NHL team to go through a season without being shutout in 1995-96. … Erat became the sixth Predators player with at least 20 goals this season. … Predators right wing Steve Sullivan missed his ninth straight with a strained groin, and defenseman Marek Zidlicky missed his 11th since separating his shoulder March 25.