DETROIT – “We won three in a row last year.”
And that’s just what the Wings and Henrik Zetterberg will have to do this year in order to extend their season.
“We’ve got to win one or it’s over,” Zetterberg said after Detroit’s 3-1 loss Tuesday night to the Nashville Predators in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal.
The Predators grabbed a 3-1 lead in the series and will look to move on in the NHL playoffs Friday in Nashville.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but they still have to win one more game,” said Jimmy Howard, who made just 14 saves. “I’m not the type of person to just to roll over. I’m going to give whatever it takes next game. We just have to try and win one right now.”
Nashville got another outstanding performance between the pipes from Pekka Rinne, who made 40 saves, while Francis Bourque, Kevin Klein and David Legwand scored goals.
“We couldn’t capitalize on our chances,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s frustrating but you’ve got to push past that. You’re in playoff hockey now, you’re not going to get the breaks all the time, you’ve got to fight for it and battle for it. Now we’re in a tough situation, we’ve got to go down to Nashville and win one game.”
Detroit got its lone goal from Jiri Hudler, on the power play.
“It’s do or die,” Drew Miller said. “We have to go in play our game and get a win.”
Last season the Wings dropped the first three games in the Western Conference semifinals with San Jose before winning the next three and eventually falling in Game 7.
“Everybody’s disappointed to say the least, down 3-1 now,” Danny Cleary said. “We go back to Nashville here Friday and get ready. Our focus now is we’ve been in this position before so we really can’t look to far ahead. We have to focus on one game and get a win.”
With the game scoreless entering the third, the Wings caught a break a minute and 28 seconds in when the ref blew a whistle on a seemingly harmless shot from Legwand that Howard let hit off his equipment and trickle past him on the short side.
However, 28 seconds later the puck crossing the line counted.
Alexander Radulov swung around and backhanded a pass off the skate of Todd Bertuzzi that went right to a wide open Bourque in the slot and he rifled his shot home.
The Wings answered right back on the power play just 1:19 later (check) on the power play.
Niklas Kronwall unloaded a blast from the point that Hudler was able to redirect over Rinne’s shoulder to even the game.
The referee on the ice ruled that it was no goal, but after a review it showed the puck hit the bar in the back of the net.
Hudler had another chance had a wide open net moments later, but rang a backhand off the post which in turn led to the Predators’ second and game-winning goal.
As Martin Erat spilt the defense he drew Lidstrom, Ian White and Hudler with him to the corner and had Howard caught way out of position. Erat’s sent a soft backhand pass to Klein and he a wide-open net staring him right in the face to bury his shot in.
“I was playing Erat,” Howard said. “He made a nice play.”
“I was down with (Mike) Fisher during that,” Zetterberg said. “I looked up and they put it in the open net.”
“We had enough people back and we all end up chasing the puck for some reason,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose team has out shot the Predators 60-21 over the last four periods. “We made a mistake.”
Legwand scored the Predators’ third goal, on the power play, with 39 seconds left to play.
“It’s easy to blame (no puck luck), but we just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Zetterberg said. “I think you create your own bounces.
“We had 41 shots again tonight, a lot of them are quality chances,” Zetterberg added. “It’s tough when you keep getting chance after chance after chance after chance and then they come up and score a goal. The momentum goes to their side. It’s tough to fight back.”
The Wings had two more power plays in the third period, finishing 1-for-7 with the man advantage on the night.
“Those are the breaks,” Howard said. “That’s why you play the game. Sometimes when you feel that you out play them you don’t always win. But we have to remain positive and keep going.
We just have to keep crashing, be resilient.”
The Predators have now won three straight at Joe Louis Arena.
“We played well enough to win, we’re making some huge mistakes and giving them freebies, it’s tough,” Kronwall said. “We had our fair share of chances but we just couldn’t capitalize. Right now it’s all about winning one game.”
Detroit went just 5-5-2 over the last 12 regular season games, after setting an NHL record with 23 consecutive wins on home ice.
In the first period the Wings had a number of chances to put one past Rinne, aided by three power plays, but couldn’t.
Cleary was robbed by Rinne’s right pad right outside the goal crease seven minutes in. Then, Kronwall tried to be cute after getting a pass from Zetterberg, going one handed on his backhand, shootout style, and slid the puck wide of the post.
Five minutes into the second period Legwand got away with putting his hand over the puck in the crease as Rinne was closing up his pads while on his back. Nashville didn’t get its first shot on goal in the period until there was 11:17 left to play in it by Fisher.