By Josh Cooper in Nashville
It made sense that David Legwand scored the game-winning goal in Nashville's 2-1 series-clinching victory over Detroit
on Friday night.
Almost too much sense. The first draft pick in team history and an original Predator, Legwand found an opening over goalie Jimmy Howard's stick in the third period to send Nashville to its first series victory over Detroit in the third playoff meeting between the clubs.
"Leggy was a guy I knew could break out at some point in the series and be a difference maker and today he was," Nashville Coach Barry Trotz said. "David Legwand had his 'A' game tonight."
Legwand has been in Nashville for the few ups in franchise history. He was on the team that made it to the second round of the post-season for the first time ever a year ago. He played with Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya and Kimmo Timonen during Nashville's strong years following the lockout.
He also stuck with the Predators after the team had been gutted following the 2007 season. He played for the squads that played Detroit tough in 2004 and 2008, but couldn't get past the Red Wings. In both those series, the Red Wings vanquished the Predators in six games. This Predators team happened to be deep enough and strong enough in most facets of the game.
"I think it's a play that happens during the course of the game, obviously a poke back out to the slot," Legwand said of his game-winning goal 13 seconds into the third period. "Howard's going one way and I went the other way, I don't know if it's significant or not but it feels good.
Legwand also figured in Alexander Radulov's goal in the first period. He caused a Kyle Quincy turnover deep in the Detroit zone and passed the puck to Radulov in front of the Detroit net. In his final four periods of play this series, Legwand had two goals and one assist.
"It's special obviously to beat those guys. Great organization. Great team," Legwand said. "They've had their fair share of wins and series wins and those types of things."
For years, the Predators were a group that couldn't close other teams out. They wilted under pressure. No play was more symbolic than Patrick Kane's shorthanded goal late in Game 5 at Chicago two years ago to tie the game and send it to overtime. The Blackhawks won that game and clinched the series on Nashville's home ice one game later. Now it's the Predators that are 2-0 in clinching game situations.
"We feel like we used to look up at Detroit because of feeling we were a little bit inferior in talent or being in awe of them," Legwand said. "I think we've grown to the point where we have great respect for the Detroit Red Wings, but we're not in awe of them."
It's unclear who Nashville will play in the second round of the playoffs, but the Predators have winning records against all possible opponents.
Josh Cooper covers the Predators for The Tennessean. Follow him on Twitter @joshuacooper
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