NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, the Detroit Red Wings proved they know exactly how to finish off the first round of the playoffs.
Ray Whitney and Steve Yzerman scored goals 30 seconds apart in the opening two minutes, and the Red Wings beat the Nashville Predators 2-0 on Saturday in Game 6 to clinch their first-round series 4-2.
"We just seemed to do what we had to do to win," Detroit forward Darren McCarty said. "That's what we concentrated on, and we hadn't won a first-round series in a while so it feels good."
Actually, it was just two years ago that the Red Wings won a first-round series en route to their 10th Stanley Cup championship. But this series helped ease the pain from last year when Anaheim swept Detroit.
That loss had Red Wings fans panicking after Nashville evened the series at 2 behind goalie Tomas Vokoun. His play provided painful flashbacks to Jean-Sebastien Giguere's dominating performance for Anaheim in 2003.
But the Red Wings finished off the Western Conference first-round series in style by leading for 115:15 of the final 120 minutes to end Nashville's first foray into the playoffs. They improved to 8-0 in potential clinching games, dating to the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals.
"I loved this series," Detroit coach Dave Lewis said. "It was great. It was exactly what we needed."
Now the regular season's best team will continue its push for a fourth Stanley Cup title in eight seasons, and the Red Wings will do it with Joseph in goal. Lewis said he will stick with the veteran for the rest of the playoffs after Detroit won the last two games to capture the series.
The largest crowd ever at 17,329 squeezed into the Predators home arena, and fans were armed with inflatable plastic sticks handed out as they arrived. They tried to help the Predators fend off elimination but couldn't drown out Detroit's fast start.
The Red Wings ignored the noise and scored on two of their first three shots to take control and quiet the fans. It was the only game of the series won by the visiting team.
"Whenever you have an opportunity to close an opponent out, you want to come out and make a statement early," Detroit center Kris Draper said. "I think we were able to do that."
Whitney scored his first goal of the series after his first shot from the slot bounced off Predators forward Andreas Johansson and back to him for the second shot, which found the net at 1:26 of the first period.
Lang, who also assisted on the first goal, took advantage when Predators defenseman Mark Eaton lost his stick near the boards. Lang passed the puck out to Yzerman in the slot for a goal at 1:56.
Detroit nearly scored again on the next shot by Draper, but the puck went over Vokoun's back and fell onto the goal line before Brad Bombardir cleared it away.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said the Predators had two defensive lapses.
"They capitalized on both chances, and all of a sudden you get a minute and 56 seconds into the game and you're down 2-0 and that's a pretty tough task against the Red Wings," he said.
Nashville had its chances to make it a game but went 0-for-5 on the power play. The Predators scored only one power-play goal in the series and were hurt by the loss of defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who was sidelined for all but two minutes with an upper body injury.
- The shutout was Detroit's first in the postseason since Dominik Hasek stopped Carolina 3-0 on June 10, 2002.
- Yzerman's goal was his 68th of the postseason, breaking a tie with Gordie Howe for most goals in Red Wings history.
- Vokoun gave up five goals on 26 shots in the first period of the last two games.
- Lang had at least a point in each of the Red Wings' victories in the series and was scoreless in their two losses.
- Detroit is 10-0 in Game 6 when it can clinch a series, dating to 1966 when the Red Wings beat Chicago. Seven of those wins have come on the road.
- Scott Walker, who led Nashville in scoring in the regular season, was held to one point in the playoffs.
The Associated Press News Service
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