Predators Struggle to Dethrone Red Wings

Friday, March 30th 2007, 8:15 am
By: News On 6

The Predators and Red Wings went head-to-head in the race for the Presidents' Cup and the top spot in the Western Conference, and Detroit took down the challengers from the South again. Both clubs better watch their backs, Anaheim is gaining fast.

Pavel Datsyuk scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and had an assist, and the Red Wings beat Nashville 2-1 Thursday night to move back into a tie with the Predators atop the NHL.

The Red Wings, Predators and Buffalo all have 105 points, but Detroit has a game in hand on Nashville with four of its final five games against Central Division cellar-dwellers Columbus and Chicago. The Ducks have 104 points after they won 5-2 at Columbus, Ohio.

In other NHL games it was, Atlanta 3, Toronto 2 in overtime; Pittsburgh 4, Boston 2; St. Louis 5, Edmonton 2; Calgary 4, Minnesota 2; Colorado 4, Phoenix 3; and Vancouver 4, Los Angeles 2.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he isn't worrying about the standings, finishing first or fourth.

``We're in the playoffs, and one through eight, I don't know who we want to play ... Which team do we match up best against? I can't figure it out, so I'm not spending any time doing it,'' Babcock said.

Detroit came in having already won the season series with five victories in the first seven games. The Red Wings finished off the series finale in style with their fourth straight victory against Nashville and 13 of 16 possible points.

Johan Franzen also scored, and Todd Bertuzzi had two assists for the Red Wings.

``It's a fun game to play with Nashville,'' Datsyuk said. ``Both teams have great players and try to play their game.''

Nashville blew a chance to pad its lead on Detroit and has four games left to win a franchise-best 50th. Three of those are at home. Not that anyone is making excuses, but several Predators pointed out they were short-handed with five forwards out _ four to injuries including Steve Sullivan (back).

Peter Forsberg, who played nearly 22 minutes, said they tried to fight despite running low on forwards and are frustrated at not having control in their own hands.

``We have to rely on Detroit losing two points, and we go undefeated. It was two huge points we lost today,'' he said.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Detroit had scored only seven more goals in this series with a couple of empty-netters.

``I'd like to see our club healthy and play them,'' he said.

At Columbus, Teemu Selanne scored a goal and assisted on three power-play goals in the third period to help the Ducks set a franchise record for road wins with 20.

``We just had to play a pretty solid road game and I think we did,'' Selanne said. ``Jiggy (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) gave us a chance to win the game.

``The power play was a key factor, too.''

Anaheim is chasing their first division title since entering the NHL in 1993, as well as the Presidents' Trophy for the most regular-season points.

``The power play finally stepped up,'' said Chris Pronger of the league's third-best unit that was only 5-for-30 over the previous seven games. ``We kind of got clicking again. That's big for us down the stretch.''

Pronger had two goals and an assist for the Ducks, who won 3-1 in Chicago on Wednesday. Anaheim has a six-point lead over San Jose and Dallas in the Pacific Division.

Penguins 4, Bruins 2

At Boston, Sidney Crosby had three assists to bring his NHL-leading point total to 116, helping Pittsburgh move into first place in the Atlantic Division.

Erik Christensen had two goals and an assist, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31 shots as the Penguins won their fourth consecutive game and ninth of 11. Pittsburgh has 100 points, two more than idle New Jersey and second in the conference to Buffalo.

With the loss, the Bruins were officially eliminated from playoff contention.

Phil Kessel and Brandon Bochenski each had a goal and an assist for Boston.

Thrashers 3, Maple Leafs 2, OT-

At Atlanta, Slava Kozlov scored two goals, including the winner on the power play with 46.4 seconds remaining in overtime, to help Atlanta end a three-game losing streak.

Losers of the five straight on the road, the Maple Leafs still earned their 85th point, one better than the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes.

Flames 4, Wild 2

At St. Paul, Minn., Jarome Iginla's first hat trick of the season brought the Flames closer to clinching the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Daymond Langkow also scored in a three-goal first period for Calgary, which scored twice in the first 80 seconds. Miikka Kiprusoff made 23 saves in Calgary's fifth straight victory.

Brent Burns and Mark Parrish scored power-play goals for Minnesota.

Blues, 5, Oilers 2

At St. Louis, Doug Weight had a goal and an assist, Barret Jackman added three assists, and St. Louis snapped a three-game skid.

The Blues also got goals from Peter Sejna, Lee Stempniak, Jay McClement and Petr Cajanek, who scored an empty-netter.

Ales Hemsky and Mathieu Roy scored for Edmonton.

Avalanche 4, Coyotes 3

At Glendale, Ariz., Milan Hejduk had a goal and an assist to help Colorado boost its fading playoff hopes.

Brett McLean, Wojtek Wolski and Brad Richardson also scored for the Avalanche, who won for the 11th time in 14 games to remain seven points behind Calgary for the Western Conference's final playoff spot.

Kevyn Adams scored his first goal with Phoenix, and Steven Reinprecht and Nick Boynton also scored for the Coyotes, who have lost 13 of 15.

Canucks 4, Kings 2

At Los Angeles, Daniel Sedin scored two goals and Roberto Luongo made 32 saves to help Vancouver stretch its lead atop the Northwest Division to three points.

Sedin scored on a power play early in the second and set up a goal by Taylor Pyatt later in the period to help ruin the debut of highly touted Kings defenseman Jack Johnson.

The 20-year-old Johnson, the third pick in the 2005 NHL draft, left the University of Michigan after two seasons and signed a pro contract with the Kings on Tuesday.