DETROIT — Every time Shea Weber touched the puck in the opening minutes of the Nashville Predators’ 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, a chorus of boos echoed through Joe Louis Arena. The jeers directed at Weber were in response to an incident four days earlier on April 11, when the Nashville defenseman smashed Detroit left wing Henrik Zetterberg’s face into the glass at Bridgestone Arena in the final minutes of Game 1.
The NHL fined Weber $2,500 for the incident, but while he was a little lighter in the wallet, he didn’t lose much heft on the ice.
Weber wasted little time in securing early momentum, giving the Predators a 1-0 lead over the Red Wings less than three minutes into Game 3 of a Western Conference quarterfinal series.
“He was a monster out there,” Nashville Coach Barry Trotz said of Weber.
Weber is known for his booming slapshot, but on Nashville’s first power play, Weber skated into the zone on a power play, picked up a rebound, and beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard on a wrist shot as Pavel Datsyuk attempted to defend on the play without a stick.
Moments before the goal, Weber’s slap shot had broken Datsyuk’s stick.
“He came in from the back side and scored that goal, where Pav would have cleared that shot,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Him and [Ryan] Suter play anywhere from 25 to 30 minutes. They always play hard and play long.”
In a game-best 27:06 of ice time, Weber finished with four shots on goal, three hits, and three blocked shots. But did Weber hear all those jeers?
“It’s a part of it … whatever,” Weber said. “We’re focused on the game. They’re a very good team, and we need to be ready.”
FIRST WIN AT JOE: Nashville earned its first playoff win at Joe Louis Arena since the organization opened its first NHL season in the fall of 1998.
Before Sunday’s game, the Predators were 0-6 in Detroit in playoff series in 2004 and 2008, but the Predators took a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal.
“Anytime you win, it’s huge,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s at home or on the road. We have to be thankful.”
MISSED AGAIN: Weber’s goal came less than 90 seconds after Detroit left wing Drew Miller was unable to beat Rinne on a breakaway attempt, a play on which Miller was called for goaltender interference at 1:35 of the first. It was the first of two unsuccessful breakaway attempts for Miller; about eight minutes later, Rinne poked the puck away from Miller as he attempted to split the Predators’ defense.
AMERICAN-MADE: Howard, the Red Wings goalie, is now ninth among American-born goalies in playoff minutes, with 1,570 minutes, 66 seconds after Sunday’s loss. Jimmy Howard passed Chris Terreri (1521:58), who played for four NHL teams from 1986 to 2001.
Howard has 13 playoff wins; with his next playoff win, Howard will be in sole possession of ninth place in NHL playoff history in wins, ahead of Robert Esche. Esche played for Phoenix and Philadelphia from 1998 to 2007 and was born in Utica, N.Y., about 130 miles south of Howard’s hometown of Ogdensburg, N.Y.
GOT TICKETS? Sunday’s Game 3 was the 70th consecutive sellout for the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, dating to Dec. 19, 2010. Cumulative season attendance at Joe Louis Arena is 822,706.