Pekka Rinne made the Detroit Red Wings’ dominant performance meaningless.
Rinne made 40 saves, and Kevin Klein scored a go-ahead goal 6:25 into the third period, lifting the Nashville Predators to a 3-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday night and a 3-1 lead in the first-round Western Conference playoff series.
”Usually, the game gets easier when you face more pucks,” Rinne said.
Nashville can eliminate Detroit in Game 5 on Friday night at home.
”Now we’re in a tough situation,” Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. ”We’ve got to go down to Nashville and win one game.”
Predators rookie Gabriel Bourque broke a scoreless tie 1:55 into the third period. Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall tied it 1:19 later with a power-play goal that was waved off on the ice but reversed by video review.
The Red Wings pulled goalie Jimmy Howard to add an extra skater with 1:31 left, but had to put him back in the net because Henrik Zetterberg was called for high-sticking with 55.8 seconds left. David Legwand’s power-play goal sealed the win with 39 seconds left.
Rinne stopped the first 29 shots he faced, including a kick save on Lidstrom’s slap shot at the end of the second period.
”We weren’t very happy with the first and second,” Rinne said. ”They had too many shots, too many scoring chances. We buckled down in the third period.”
Howard made 14 saves.
”It’s definitely disappointing, but they still have to win one more game,” Howard said. ”I’m not that type of person just to roll over.”
The Red Wings nearly took a 1-0 lead just before Klein’s goal, but Jiri Hudler’s shot hit a goal post.
Martin Erat blew past Detroit’s defense, including Lidstrom, on the following sequence up the middle of the ice, drew three Red Wings to the left and passed the puck back to an uncovered Klein in front for a shot into the net vacated by the helpless Howard.
”We had enough people back,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. ”We all end up chasing the puck for some reason. We made a mistake.”
Babcock said the Predators made their share of miscues, too, but they were covered up by their 6-foot-5 Finn in net.
”We have to make it easier on him,” Klein said.
Nashville put the Red Wings on a power play 50 seconds after Klein’s goal, just as it did after the first goal, but they couldn’t take advantage. Detroit failed to score on another power play that expired with 4-plus minutes left in the game.
The team that has scored first has won each game. For the first time in the series the final score wasn’t 3-2.
Detroit was determined to start strong, and it did, controlling the puck and the play as if on a power play during even-strength situations. The Red Wings recorded eight of the first nine shots.
”We knew we were going to have to weather some storms early,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said.
Six-plus minutes in, the Red Wings looked as though they might score when Pavel Datsyuk set up Danny Cleary, but Cleary couldn’t take advantage. Zetterberg later made a cross-ice pass to put Kronwall in a position to score, but he couldn’t get his stick on a backhanded attempt to test Rinne.
”We had a lot of chances that we didn’t score on,” Lidstrom said. ”We finally got one on the power play, but we needed another goal and we couldn’t get it. We hit the post there late in the game.”
The teams failed on five total power plays in the first period.
Detroit peppered Rinne with 17 shots in the second and still couldn’t get the puck past him.
The Red Wings didn’t allow a shot for almost 9 minutes in the second and gave up just three in the lopsided period.
”It wasn’t a real good period for us,” Trotz said.
Early in the third, Legwand appeared to put the Predators ahead, but officials ruled he didn’t score because the whistle was blown before the puck was in the net.
Babcock acknowledged Detroit got a break, but then Nashville got the goal it was due 14 seconds later when Bourque scored his third in his first playoff series. He took a pass from Alexander Radulov – redirected off the skate of Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi – and scored from in front.
Kronwall answered with a slap shot that went in the net and bounced out, leading a video review that gave fans at Joe Louis Arena a rare opportunity to cheer.
”It’s frustrating, but you’ve got to push past that,” Lidstrom said.
NOTES: If the Red Wings force Game 6, it will be played Sunday in Detroit. … Predators D Hal Gill (lower body injury) was scratched for the fourth straight game. … The Red Wings advanced the previous three times they were down 2-1. They won Game 4 en route to eliminating Phoenix two years ago, and knocked out Anaheim in 2009 and San Jose in 2007. … Nashville put F Matt Halischuk back in the lineup after replacing him with Jordin Tootoo for Game 3.