Red Wings don't want Game 7

Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:34 PM ET
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Detroit Red Wings finally played like the star-studded team they are in taking the lead in their first-round series against Nashville. Now they face a different challenge: Winning on the road.

The Red Wings are up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series after a 4-1 victory Thursday night. Victory in Game 6 in Nashville on Saturday afternoon moves them a step closer to their fourth Stanley Cup in eight years.

But home teams have won every game in the series, and the Predators now lead the series with Detroit in Nashville 9-7-2-0.

"Now it's up to us to find a way to win a road game," Detroit forward Kris Draper said.

The Predators fed off a rowdy home crowd in winning Games 3 and 4 to avoid the Detroit sweep many expected. Another sellout crowd will be on hand as they try to forget their worst game this postseason.

"Obviously, it's an advantage for us," said goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 82 of 83 shots in Nashville. "Possibly facing elimination, so it's all about how you respond. And we got to respond, or our season is over."

The Red Wings are 7-0 in games that clinched a series dating back to a 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas in the 1998 Western Conference finals.

The team that was swept by Anaheim in the first round last season wants to avoid the need for Game 7 on Monday night where a bad bounce could end the Red Wings' season in the opening round a second straight year.

"We definitely want to take care of business," forward Brendan Shanahan said. "They've had a lot of success against us at home, even when they weren't a playoff team. Whenever you have an opportunity to put a team away, you want to do it."

Almost everything clicked for Detroit in Game 5 with Henrik Zetterberg, Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom scoring for the first time in the series. Pavel Datsyuk, the team's leading goal scorer, also got his first points.

The Red Wings played keepaway with the puck in building a 3-0 lead in the first period, and they made the goalie change from Manny Legace to Curtis Joseph almost an afterthought.

"We have to play better than (Thursday) to win the series," Detroit coach Dave Lewis said. "That's the mindset. Constant improvement even if it's marginal. We want to get better every game."

The Predators aren't ready to quit just yet, not after fighting the last month of the season just to reach the playoffs.

"We had a bad game," forward Steve Sullivan said. "We know what we did wrong and what we have to do to correct it -- to come out with a lot more energy with our fans behind us and hopefully just be intense and prepared right out of the gate."

The Predators have proven they can disrupt the Red Wings' offense after holding Detroit to six goals in the first four games.

Detroit forward Kirk Maltby said he hopes the Red Wings can draw off their own playoff experience -- 2,106 games combined entering this postseason -- to close out the series.

"There's no guarantees. They're a young team, and they're gaining their experience," he said. "They've learned a lot in a short period of time."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press