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Preds first team to advance, beat Wings 2-1…

In front of 17,113 crazy, berserk, gold-clad fans, the Nashville Predators beat the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1. In doing so, they won their first round Stanley Cup Playoff series four games to one and became the first team to advance in this years postseason.

Pekka Rinne was stellar, as usual. He collected just 21 saves but was solid when he needed to be, stopping pucks through traffic, making key saves at key times and even taking abuse from Tomas Holmstrom without giving it back and taking a needless penalty. Rinne, in a phrase, was “Conn Smythe-like.”

“The big guy between the pipes was unbelievable,” Patric Hornqvist said. “He’s our MVP so far. He’s the best goalie in the league and he’s shown it in all five games.”

In the first frame, David Legwand created a turnover behind the Red Wings net and fed a backhand pass to Alexander Radulov. From nearly point blank range, the Russian sniper showed why he earned that┬ámoniker, wristing a laser over Howard’s blocker, tucking it under the crossbar for the 1-0 lead.

In the second period, the Red Wings tied it on a Jiri Hudler tally and the Preds gripped their sticks a little too hard for the duration of the period. Put simply, they were a different team after Detroit’s goal but must have gotten a talking to during the second intermission as they came out for the third on fire. Just 0:13 into the stanza, David Legwand caught Howard leaning and picked the corner on the Wings netminder, making it 2-1.

“We just talked about 20 minutes to win a series,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “Guys were calm in here. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy but obviously (Legwand) got out there… made a great play and got us a goal.”

Throughout the remainder of the game, Nashville never seemed to get flustered. Both Martin Erat and Hornqvist appeared to draw penalties but, when none came, they didn’t complain. They hopped back up and didn’t even look in the referee’s direction. A sign of a maturing team? Absolutely.

“We knew it was going to come down to the last 10 minutes,” Rinne said. “They always have a great push and we were ready for it.”

Head Coach Barry Trotz agreed.

“We didn’t sit back and say ‘Hey, we’ve got this lead, now let’s protect it.’ We protected it the right way. We protected it by going after them and reloading and taking away their time and space and making them work for their inches.”

Per the playoff structure, the highest advancing seed plays the lowest advancing seed. Seeing as how the Los Angeles Kings (#8) are up 3-1 on the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues (#2) are in complete control over the San Jose Sharks (#7), the Predators will most likely play the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Semifinal. The Yotes currently have a 3-1 series lead on the Chicago Blackhawks but don’t let the lopsided series tally fool you. All four games have needed overtime to decide the outcome.

The schedule, obviously, will be announced as soon as the other series are completed.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 6:12 remaining in regulation):
1) Alexander Radulov (NSH)
2) David Legwand (NSH)
3) Gabriel Bourque (NSH)

1) David Legwand (NSH)
2) Alexander Radulov (NSH)
3) Pekka Rinne (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gove r//

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