NASHVILLE, Tenn. — David Legwand scored 13 seconds into the third period, and the Nashville Predators advanced to the Western Conference semifinals with a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.
The fourth-seeded Predators won the series 4-1, capping a season in which they finished ahead of their Central Division rival for the first time, and beat the Red Wings for the first time in their third playoff series. Nashville made it even sweeter by handing the Red Wings their earliest postseason departure since a six-game first-round loss to Edmonton in 2006.
The Predators became the first team to advance this postseason, and they could face No. 3 seed Phoenix in the second round. The Coyotes lead the Chicago 3-1.
Legwand added an assist, and Alexander Radulov also had a goal and assist for Nashville. The team that scored first won each game, and that was Nashville again.
Jiri Hudler scored for Detroit, which heads into the summer having lost three straight waiting to see if captain Nicklas Lidstrom has played his last game after 20 seasons.
The Predators won the final three in needing only five goals by outshooting and outhitting the older Red Wings. They got the winning goal from Legwand, a native of the Detroit area, who scored on a wrister off an assist from Gabriel Bourque and Radulov.
The Red Wings took a timeout with 3.1 seconds left after Henrik Zetterberg missed a rebound and the puck was iced. They added some time, putting the clock at 4.2 seconds. It just wasn’t enough as the Predators cleared the puck to start the celebration.
Legwand’s goal started the sold-out crowd counting down the final minutes, eager to celebrate this former expansion franchise’s biggest victory yet against the Detroit team Nashville always has measured itself against. Fans even gathered outside the arena watching on a giant TV, and those inside gave the Predators three standing ovations in the third period during timeouts.
Country singer Keith Urban and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, also were on hand decked out in the free gold T-shirts for the home fans.
This is just the Predators’ seventh playoff appearance in eight seasons, but Nashville improved to 2-0 in elimination games by winning its second straight first-round series.
Nashville had watched teams like Philadelphia and Vancouver stave off elimination since they won Game 4 in Detroit on Tuesday night, so the Predators were ready when the Red Wings came out with all the desperation of a franchise that had won 32 postseason series during their 21 straight playoff appearances. Edmonton needed six games to oust Detroit in 2006.
Detroit opened the game by outshooting the Predators 6-1, and Valterri Filppula even had a partial breakaway attempt midway through the first period only to see Pekka Rinne make the save.
But the Predators withstood the early flurry and started going on the offense, and they finally went up 1-0 when Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey misplayed the puck. Legwand grabbed it and fired a pass to Radulov in front, and he easily beat goalie Jimmy Howard with a wrister at 16:10.
In Nashville tradition, the first of at least a couple catfish was tossed on the ice in celebration with fans finally having a reason to cheer and release some of their pent-up emotions.
That seemed to fire the Predators up even more, and rookie Craig Smith, making his playoff debut, had two chances late in the period. His shot from in front went just right of the post, and he chased down the puck, skating around the net and throwing it back across the crease.
Zetterberg helped the Red Wings tie it up when he threw the puck toward the front of the net with Filppula getting an assist before Hudler poked the puck past Rinne’s right skate at 13:45 of the second. The Predators killed off the rest of the period before getting a much-needed breather at the second intermission.
Notes: Nashville ousted Anaheim in six games in the first round last season. … Detroit beat Nashville in the opening round in both 2004 and 2008. … The goal was Radulov’s sixth in the postseason but his first of this series. He has five points in this postseason. Bourque, a rookie, now has four points in his first postseason series. … Country singer Martina McBride joined the house band at the first intermission. … The Predators outshot Detroit 10-8 in the first period, the first period they’ve done that in this series since the third period of Game 2. … Lidstrom, Detroit’s leader in postseason points and games played, did not notch a point in the series.
By TERESA M. WALKER/AP