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Published: 4/16/2004

Wings turn it on 3 first-period goals doom Predators

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Detroit s Henrik Zetterberg slips the puck past the outstretched glove of Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun. Detroit s Henrik Zetterberg slips the puck past the outstretched glove of Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
JULIAN H. GONZALEZ / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings were looking for a way to shake Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun s confidence.

It didn t take long.

The Red Wings scored two goals on their first four shots against Vokoun, and three on their first nine, en route to a 4-1 victory over the Predators in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series at Joe Louis Arena.

“We knew we needed a good start and we needed a good first period,” said left wing Henrik Zetterberg. “Things worked out pretty good for us. Getting three goals that quickly really got us going.”

Vokoun had stopped 82 of 83 shots in the last two games, but he looked very ordinary last night as the Red Wings first-period flurry helped them grab a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series.

“I think our first period won the hockey game,” Red Wings coach Dave Lewis said.

Detroit, which had scored just 12 goals in its last eight playoff games, can close out the series with a victory tomorrow in Game 6 in Nashville. The Predators have won the two previous games there.

“We won t change much,” Lewis said. “We ll just try and stick with what we did tonight.”

The Wings, held scoreless in the opening period of the first four games, erupted for three goals in the first 13:18 last night. Linemates Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg - who had combined for two assists in the series - played key roles.

Zetterberg gave Detroit a 1-0 lead at 3:19, scoring on the Wings first shot of the game for his first goal of the playoffs. Datsyuk, the flashy center who had 30 goals in the regular season, stickhandled brilliantly behind the net before slipping the puck out in front to Zetterberg, who lifted a back-hander over Vokoun.

“You always have to be ready with your stick on the ice when [Datsyuk] has the puck because it can come to you any time,” Zetterberg said. “I didn t see any net on [Vokoun], so I had to have a little patience and it turned out well.”

Datsyuk dazzled again on the second goal. After taking a pass from Zetterberg near the left boards, Datsyuk centered the puck in front of the net for Brett Hull, who slipped it past Vokoun at 6:22.

“Datsyuk and Zetterberg have tremendous chemistry out there,” Lewis said. “They like to play together. They like to be on the ice together. And they are very creative.”

Zetterberg says experience has made him more comfortable than he was in last year s playoff loss to Anaheim.

Brendan Shanahan, who has scored more goals against the Predators than any other NHL player, stretched Detroit s lead to 3-0 in the first period, netting his first goal of the playoffs on his 22nd shot. His short-handed tally came on an odd-angle shot from behind the net. Captain Steve Yzerman, who had no points and a minus-four rating in the series, picked up an assist.

Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom added a power-play goal at 9:25 of the second period, putting the Red Wings up 4-0. It was only Detroit s second goal on 22 shots in the series with the extra attacker, and the crowd of 20,066 mockingly chanted: “Vo-koun! Vo-koun!”

Sergei Zholtok followed with Nashville s first power-play goal at 19:22 of the second period, snapping an 0-for-22 drought.

Detroit goaltender Curtis Joseph, the $48 million man making his first playoff start after relieving Manny Legace in Game 4, had a 2-0 lead before he even faced a shot. He made 19 saves to Vokoun s 27.

Joseph improved to 59-62 in the postseason and evened his mark at 3-3 against Nashville this season.

“Curtis looked very comfortable in the net,” Lewis said. “He was good. I m very happy for him that he got the victory.”



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