The Nashville Predators will try to put the finishing touches on just the second playoff series victory in team history, as they host the Detroit Red Wings tonight in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena.
The fourth-seeded Predators, who entered the league for the 1998-99 season, have made the playoffs in seven of their 13 seasons in existence, but their only series win came over Anaheim in last spring's conference quarterfinals. Nashville went on to lose in Round 2 last year to the Vancouver Canucks.
Detroit was able to earn a split of the opening two games in Nashville, taking Game 2 in the Music City, but the fifth-seeded Red Wings surprisingly stumbled at home. Detroit was 31-7-3 as the host this season and at one point set an NHL record with 23 straight home victories, but the Wings lost both Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena to fall behind 3-1 in this series.
The Red Wings will now have to fend off elimination on the road, where they were just 17-21-3 during the regular season.
"You can't look at the big picture. You have to break it up and look at that next game. Take things one game at a time," said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
After winning Game 3 by a 3-2 score in regulation, the Predators pushed Detroit to the brink of elimination with Tuesday's 3-1 victory at the Joe. Kevin Klein scored the tie-breaking goal 6:25 into the third period and David Legwand sealed the win with a power-play goal in the final minute.
Pekka Rinne continued to frustrate Detroit's offense, as the potential Vezina Trophy finalist made 40 saves for the Game 4 victory. He turned aside 16-of-17 shots in the third period alone.
All told, Rinne has stopped 130-of-138 shots for a .942 save percentage in this series. Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 14 saves in Game 4, has surrendered 11 goals on only 91 shots over the four games.
"It's not time to get too frustrated," said Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula. "We just have to keep going and battle through it. Their goalie has been playing great. A lot of credit has to be given to him (Rinne). He makes it a lot more difficult."
Detroit's lone goal on Wednesday came on the power play and was scored by Jiri Hudler, but the Red Wings were just 1-for-7 on the man advantage in the game.
The Predators are looking for their first playoff series victory against the Red Wings in the third meeting between the clubs. The Central Division rivals also met in the first round in 2004 and '08, with Detroit taking both series in six games.
The last time Detroit lost in the opening round of the postseason was in 2006, when they were upset in the conference quarterfinals by eighth-seeded Edmonton.