Wings lose playoff opener in Nashville

BY foxsports • April 11, 2012

Remember all that respect that the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators had for each other?

You
can forget that now. There's blood in the water after the Predators
held on for a 3-2 victory Wednesday in Game 1 of the quarterfinal
series.

It was a penalty-marred affair as referees Chris Rooney
and Brad Meier called 10 penalties against the Predators and seven
against the Wings, the two least-penalized teams in the regular season.

As
though the parade to the penalty box was not bad enough, the end of the
game showed why there need to be some changes in the rules.

As
the Wings had a 6-on-4 power play with seconds left, Predators star
defenseman Shea Weber and Henrik Zetterberg were fighting for the puck.
The taller Weber shoved Zetterberg's head into the glass at least twice.

Zetterberg
slumped to the ice as the horn sounded, ending the game. He got up
slowly and was visibly angry as he skated to the dressing room.

Weber
was given a minor penalty for roughing at the 20-minute mark. But these
penalties do not carry over to the next game so unless the league
intervenes, Weber will play in Game 2 and beyond.

"That's them
just trying to send a message that this is going to be a tough, long
series," Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard told FOX Sports Detroit's John
Keating. "We've got a veteran team here and they're not going to respond
to that sort of stuff."

But the Wings shouldn't have to respond.
They can't change the rules now, but the powers-that-be in the NHL
really need to take a look at these end-of-game shenanigans. It might be
a bit more of a deterrent if Weber's penalty carried over to the
beginning of the next game.

What Weber did wasn't unusual in terms
of the end-of-game/postgame liberties that often take place, although
it was more violent. And it targeted Zetterberg's head, something the
league is trying to stop. Perhaps NHL vice president of player safety
Brendan Shanahan will take a closer look at the incident.

Asked
after the game by Nashville reporters what sparked the incident, Weber
said, "I don't know. He hit me from behind. So we'll see."

Predators coach Barry Trotz defended his player in the postgame video on the Predators' website.

"Zetterberg
hit him in the head first," Trotz said. "There wasn't much there. I was
watching the scrum right after that with (Todd) Bertuzzi and (Paul)
Gaustad and Bertuzzi comes in with a big-time haymaker. I watched the
first one. I just think that Zetterberg was getting tired at the end and
Webs was there and the game was over."

Brad Stuart said the Wings
can't and shouldn't respond in kind, but they do have to remember to be
just as physical with the Predators.

"Well, these series, there's
always stuff like that," Stuart told Keating. "Obviously we don't say a
whole lot. We know that they're going to take — at least try — to take
some shots at our star players and we have to be playing tough on theirs
as well.

"Every opportunity we get, we want to be finishing our
checks. They're probably taking about the same thing. If this goes,
five, six, seven games, that's when you're going to see it. We have to
make sure we're doing it as well."

As for the game itself, the
Predators benefited from a couple of very fortunate bounces. Their first
goal, scored by trade deadline acquisition Gaustad, went off Stuart's
skate and past Howard. Their second goal, a shot by Matt Halischuk,
deflected off Gabriel Bourque's stick into the net.

The Wings
killed off all five of the Predators' power-play chances. Zetterberg and
Tomas Holmstrom scored for the Wings, both goals coming on the power
play.

"Especially later on in our power plays we had some good
puck movement and we got some goals off of it, too," Nick Lidstrom told
Keating. "Same thing with penalty killing, I thought, played well for
us, too. They had that final three that we were able to kill off.
Specialty teams were working well for us."

Of course, the worst
blow of the night for the Wings was not to Zetterberg's head, nor even
the loss. Darren Helm, who returned after missing the last 10 games of
the regular season with a strained left MCL, had to leave after playing
only 3:08 when Alex Radulov's skate came up and caught Helm on his right
arm.

"He's at the hospital, they're looking at him
exploratory-wise," coach Mike Babcock told Keating. "Don't know how
severe he's cut but he's cut."

So now the Wings likely will be without Helm, down 1-0 in the series and facing a team that has sent a message with hard hits.

"We
have to focus on our game," Niklas Kronwall told Keating. "The more we
start focusing on things like that, we're going to put ourselves in a
bigger hole, so we'll look at the big picture and focus on our game."


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