By Sarah Kwak, SI.com
No question, a game played on ice is going to be slick; the fast-paced tempo is what makes hockey so exciting to watch (if not difficult for camera operators to capture). But a quick pace also demands split-second decision-making. An instant can be the difference between an open net and a barreling mass of pads, which is the lesson Nashville takes in its season-ending 3-0 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
During the second period, the Predators were granted a two-man advantage for one minute, a golden opportunity to tie the game served up on a silver platter. It couldn't have been easier to score than if Nicklas Lidstrom had physically picked up the puck and dropped it into his net himself. But alas, Nashville lost the ensuing face-off and couldn't get any great looks on Detroit goalie Chris Osgood for maybe half a minute. That changed, however, when Predators center Rich Peverley received a cross-ice pass about 20 feet outside the net. But instead of shooting a one-timer, he handled the puck for just a second, which was exactly enough time for Osgood to slide over and make the stop, one of the 20 he made in his 11th career postseason shutout.
About four minutes into the third period, Detroit would show them exactly how it's done. Winger Dallas Drake forced the Nashville turnover with a hard forecheck near the neutral zone. Darren Helm picked it up and crossed a beauty over to Jiri Hudler, who one-timed the puck past Nashville goalie Dan Ellis to give the Red Wings a welcome -- if ultimately unnecessary -- two-goal cushion (Lidstrom scored the first of the game on a shot from beyond center ice that took an odd skip on the choppy ice and bounced past Ellis for a shorthanded goal in the second period).
Unnecessary because of the strong play of Osgood, who started his second game of the series. After Dominik Hasek's Game 3 debacle (allowing two goals, including the game-winner, in nine seconds) and then allowing three more in the Game 4 loss, Osgood relieved the 43-year-old Dominator and has since allowed just one goal. The Red Wings are reaping the benefits of having not one, but two superb netminders, something perhaps New Jersey could've used this postseason.
On the subject of goaltenders, Ellis, with 225 saves during the six-game series and a .934 save percentage, was the surprise of the first round. His 52 saves in Game 5 set a franchise playoff record in the losing OT effort, and he gave coach Barry Trotz no reason to yank him, which Trotz had done with some regularity during the regular season. Though Nashville couldn't pull off the series win, the team surprised plenty by taking the Red Wings, owners of this season's Presidents' Trophy, to six. When is a loss a win? When you're the league's most underestimated team -- especially since losing superstars like Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg and Kimmo Timonen from last year's squad -- and you put up a fight that nobody saw coming.