DETROIT – Shea Weber knew he wouldn’t be popular in the Motor City.
The star defenceman didn’t really care, he just wanted to win.
Weber turned boos into silence with a goal early in the first period and the Nashville Predators held on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round series.
“I guess we’re more focused on the game,” he said.
Weber was jeered every time he touched the puck for smashing Henrik Zetterberg’s face into glass at the end of Game 1.
“We talk about great players when there’s a little bit of controversy stepping up,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “When he came to the rink, he knew he wasn’t going to be the most likable player in the arena.”
Weber’s goal snapped Nashville’s 0-for-12 streak on the power play against the Red Wings in the series and helped the franchise end its 0-for-6 skid in playoff games against them on the road.
“We haven’t been around for 100 years, so this was just another thing we had to get done,” Trotz said.
The Predators, who are in their 13th NHL season, advanced in the playoffs last year for the first time and are trying to get past the Red Wings after being eliminated by them in 2008 and 2004.
Just when it looked like the Red Wings were finished off for sure in Game 3, Zetterberg scored with 54 seconds left to pull the Red Wings within one, but they couldn’t force overtime.
Detroit will need to win Tuesday night at home to avoid facing elimination in Game 5 at Nashville.
“We have to dig in and be really strong in Game 4,” said Red Wings star defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, who might retire after the season.
Kevin Klein gave the Predators a 2-0 lead early in the second and Pavel Datsyuk pulled the Red Wings within one midway through the period.
The Red Wings thought Johan Franzen made it 2-all at the end of the second period, but video review showed his shot was sailing through the crease and short of the goal line when time expired.
“We knew before we left the bench,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Our video guy said it wasn’t in.”
Detroit had another chance to tie it early in the third period, but Klein’s stick prevented Cory Emmerton’s shot from going into an open net.
“I guess he has a little bit of goalie instinct,” said Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, who made 41 saves. “He made a huge block, really saved a for-sure goal. That’s obviously one of the key plays.”
Sergei Kostitsyn sealed the victory with a wrist shot from the inside of the right circle with 3:30 left on a sequence that started with Klein getting to a rebound on the other end of the ice and passing the puck along to Mike Fisher.
Jimmy Howard stopped 20 shots for the Red Wings.
“I thought he kept us in the game,” Lidstrom said.
Detroit’s team and its fans Joe Louis Arena, where the storied franchise won an NHL-high 31 games this season, were fired up before the puck dropped.
Weber was booed each time he touched the puck and the star defenceman didn’t seem fazed.
“It’s part of it,” he said. “Whatever.”
Weber’s shot broke Datsyuk’s stick on the first power play of the game and the stickless forward was crowding the crease, freeing the star defenceman to score off a rebound. The Red Wings had killed their last 37 penalties, including the previous 12 in the series.
“If you keep giving them chances, they will eventually score,” Zetterberg said.
Soon after Detroit failed to score on its second power play early in the second, Klein sped through the middle of the ice, deked defenceman Brad Stuart and his wrist shot from the slot beat Howard high on his glove side.
“He looked like a 40-goal scorer the way he jumped into the play,” Trotz said.
The two-goal lead quieted Joe Louis Arena, but Datsyuk revived the crowd with just less than 5 minutes left in the second period in a 4-on-4 situation.
Datsyuk lost a faceoff in the Nashville end, then snatched the puck from Roman Josi behind the net while Rinne stood and seemed to relax for a moment and scored before the 6-foot-5 goaltender could get in position to do anything about it. Datsyuk had an opportunity to tie the game a couple minutes later on a rebound, but his shot slid wide of the open net.
The Red Wings, who had just 17 shots in their 3-2 win Friday night, peppered Rinne with pucks without 19 shots in the third period without much success on Sunday.
Zetterberg scored on a power play in which Detroit pulled Howard, giving them a 6-on-4 advantage to help him get space to shoot from the right circle.
NOTES: Nashville D Hal Gill (lower body injury) was scratched for the third straight game. … Red Wings D Ian White (left foot) was healthy enough to play after injuring his left in Game 2. … The Predators put F Jordin Tootoo in the lineup in place of Matt Halischuk and played D Ryan Ellis instead of Jack Hillen. … The score has been 3-2 in each of the first three games. … Faces in the crowd included Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who used to play for the Titans, and Colts quarterback Drew Stanton.