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Preds overcome penalty trouble, poor power play to take Game 1…

In front of 17,113 inside Bridgestone Arena and the hockey world watching on TV, the Nashville Predators survived, plain and simple. On the back of Pekka Rinne‘s 35 save performance, the Preds knocked off the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2, to take Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Quarterfinal series.

But even with Rinne’s stellar night, it was luck that greatly attributed to the Nashville victory. With NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance, the officials were apparently on high alert. The Red Wings and the Predators were the least penalized teams in the regular season but were rung up for a combined 17 penalties on Wednesday night.

Detroit was able to cash in twice on 10 opportunities while the Preds went 0-for-7 on the man advantage.

Nashville got the scoring started, bringing the building to a fever pitch. Coming out from behind the Detroit net, Paul Gaustad scored his first goal in a Preds sweater by just firing the puck on net. It went off Brad Stuart in front and past Jimmy Howard for the 1-0 lead.

Despite an extended 5-on-3 man advantage in which they plenty of opportunities, the Preds carried just a 1-0 lead into the locker room.

In the middle frame, while Roman Josi was in the box for an ill-timed cross checking penalty, Henrik Zetterberg evened the score. With the Preds scrambling in their own end, the Sundsvall, Sweden native was able to get free, break into the slot and put the puck past a diving Rinne to make it 1-1.

A few minutes later, Matt Halischuk fired a shot on net because Gabriel Bourque was en route. The puck, unbeknownst to him, went off the shaft of Bourque’s stick and knuckled past Howard to give Nashville the 2-1 lead.

Bourque would cash in again, this time half way through the third period, to make it 3-1. Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling and Bourque were put together for their hard work and that’s exactly how Bourque’s second of the night came. Spaling came out from behind the net, after Hornqvist won a one-on-one battle, and fed it to the former Moncton Wildcat who was breaking toward the net unchecked. The goal would be the eventual game-winner.

Tomas Holmstrom pulled Detroit within one but it wasn’t enough as the Predators hung on despite taking four penalties in the final 5:08 of regulation.

With a win on Friday night, Nashville could take a 2-0 series lead into Detroit. With a loss, Detroit will steal home ice advantage from the Predators and head back to Joe Louis Arena where they boasted a 30-6-5 record during the regular season.

Puck drops at 6:30pm Central.

* Predators defenseman Hal Gill was a game time decision and did not play.
* Jack Hillen took Gill’s place in the lineup.
* His first period goal was the first of Paul Gaustad‘s NHL career (39 games).
* Conn Smythe Watch? Gabriel Bourque finished his first NHL playoff game with two goals, a plus-2 rating and four shots, all in just 9:49 of total ice time.
* Patric Hornqvist, one of the guys Nashville counts on for offense, had just four career playoff points coming into the night (14 games). He now has five thanks to an assist on Bourque’s second goal.
* Detroit forward Darren Helm left the game in the first period after catching a skate blade on his forearm.
* Helm was taken to a local hospital where Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock confirmed that he had gone through surgery to repair the injury.
* Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard made just 23 saves.
* After the final horn, Shea Weber slammed Henrik Zetterberg‘s head into the glass. Twice.
* The Predators captain was given 2:00 for roughing but may face supplemental discipline from the league.
* Earlier in the night, Zetterberg tallied his 100th career playoff point.

* The (5) Philadelphia Flyers beat the (4) Pittsburgh Penguins in OT, 4-3. PHI leads the series 1-0.
* The (8) Los Angeles Kings upset the (1) Vancouver Canucks, 3-2. LA leads the series 1-0.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:11 remaining in regulation):
1) Pekka Rinne (NSH)
2) Gabriel Bourque (NSH)
3) Matt Halischuk (NSH)

1) Gabriel Bourque (NSH)
2) Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3) Paul Gaustad (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //