The Nashville Predators are playing with the killer instinct often attributed to their first-round playoff opponent, the top-ranked Detroit Red Wings.
Greg de Vries scored what proved to be the winning goal 6:35 into the second period as the host Predators prevailed 3-2 over the Red Wings in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarter-final on Wednesday night.
"We haven't done anything yet," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "The only satisfaction is we got a win tonight."
Fittingly, the Predators relied on quick strikes — pouncing not once, but twice — to even the best-of-seven series 2-2.
First, Dan Hamhuis and Shea Weber scored 32 seconds apart to put Nashville ahead 2-0 before a supportive crowd of 17,113 at the Sommet Center.
Then, de Vries scored 11 seconds after Pavel Datsyuk put Detroit on the board.
"I wish I could bottle that," Trotz said. "I could probably make a fortune with my fellow coaches."
The Predators have scored twice in less than 35 seconds in each of the past three games, leading one to wonder if the Detroit is easily rattled at times.
"We lost a faceoff and it ended up in our net," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "To me, that is not running around or anything like that.
"That is losing a faceoff, so I think it is a different thing, totally. You can call it [rattled] if you want."
Martin Erat had two assists and netminder Dan Ellis, who led the NHL with a .924 save percentage, posted 39 saves as the eighth-seeded Predators were outshot in every period and 41-27 overall.
"We're starting to believe in ourselves a little more," Ellis said.
Datsyuk had both goals for the Red Wings, winners of the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team for the third time in four years.
Dominik Hasek yielded three goals on 14 shots before being yanked in favour of Chris Osgood, who faced 13 shots.
"The one thing really hurting us in this series is we score a goal and they get one right away," Red Wings forward Kris Draper said. "When we get momentum, we have to figure out a way to keep it."
Predators strike twice
Hamhuis converted Alexander Radulov's centring pass for a power-play goal 5:18 into the contest, and Weber scored on a rising snapshot from the slot to make it 2-0 at 5:50 of the first period.
Detroit replied with a power-play goal 6:24 into the second period as Brian Rafalski threaded a pass through a crowded slot to Datsyuk, who faked a shot that forced Ellis to commit before firing the puck between his pads for his second.
But de Vries struck back at the 6:35 mark, beating a startled Hasek on a slapshot from the point.
Osgood replaced Hasek at that point, and held firm as the Red Wings pressured the Predators the rest of the way.
The Red Wings trimmed the deficit to 3-2 on a lovely play from Tomas Holmstrom, who circled the net and slid a pass back through the crease — and the legs of an unsuspecting defenceman — to Datsyuk, who flipped it into the open net for his second goal of the game and third of the series 3:23 into the third period.
Game 5 goes Friday night at Detroit (CBC, 7:30 p.m. ET).