DETROIT — Johan Franzen probably thought the goal was going to stand. The majority of the 20,666 fans inside Joe Louis Arena were convinced of it.
But Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock knew otherwise. Franzen’s shot at the end of the second period wasn’t swift enough to beat the clock.
“We knew before we left the bench,” Babcock said. “Our video guy told us it wasn’t in. I didn’t think that was an issue at all.”
In the Red Wings’ 3-2 loss Sunday to the Nashville Predators, the NHL’s video-review headquarters officially ruled that Franzen’s shot in the final seconds crossed the goal line after time expired. The ruling negated the goal and could have erased a chance for the Red Wings to strengthen their momentum going into the third period.
When it came to creating more scoring chances, the fact that the goal was waved off didn’t weaken Detroit. Yet when it came to scoring goals, the Red Wings couldn’t best Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne or the defense in front of him.
In the third period of Game 3 of a Western Conference semifinal, the Red Wings continued to put offensive pressure on the Predators, outshooting Nashville 19-4 in the third in an attempt to notch the equalizer.
“We felt good about our shots,” said Detroit left wing Henrik Zetterberg, who cut Nashville’s lead to 3-2 with 51.9 seconds left in regulation. “Most of the time when we play these guys, these are the kind of games you have. You have to have patience and keep playing and keep going on.”
Rinne made his strongest stand of the game in the third, making 18 of his 41 saves.
“They bring a lot of players in front, and you have to expect that and be ready for it,” Rinne said. “They like to shoot the puck, and all the help I get from our D and from our forwards, it made it that much easier.”
In front of Rinne, the Predators had just as much of a presence. Nashville blocked ten shots in the third, minimizing Detroit’s looming presence in the Predators’ zone in the third period.
When asked if shot-blocking was a factor in the third period, Zetterberg dismissed the notion.
“I don’t know how many shots they blocked,” Zetterberg said. “I don’t know if that mattered.”
Weber, who was persona non grata in Detroit after mashing Zetterberg’s face in the glass near the end of Game 1 in Nashville, gave the Predators a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the game on a power play, picking up a rebound to beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (19 saves) on a wrist shot.
Kevin Klein gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 3:50 of the second after he took Martin Erat’s pass just outside the blue line and slipped behind Detroit’s defense to beat Howard. With Patric Hornqvist serving a bench minor for interference and Franzen penalized for slashing at 14:33, Pavel Datsyuk cut Nashville’s lead to 2-1 30 seconds into the 4-on-4, picking up the puck behind the net and squeezing it between Rinne’s left skate blade and the post to cut the Predators’ lead to 2-1 with 4:57 left in the second. Then, with Sergei Kostitsyn penalized for high-sticking late in the second period, Franzen appeared to tie the game.
“It was close,” Rinne said of Franzen’s disallowed goal. “I didn’t know if it was in.”
But, Rinne added, “if you’re able to go with a 2-1 lead into the third period, it’s always huge.”
Kostitsyn’s goal at 16:30 of the third became the game-winner after Zetterberg’s power-play tally late in regulation.
Now, down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Red Wings have two definite directions — tie the series on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, or face a 3-1 deficit heading back to Nashville. Howard offered some perspective.
“We have to continue on the same way,” Howard said. “This series is a long way from over.”
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