The Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings went into tonight’s game with a chip on their shoulders. Both were outgunned in their last outing and looking for some revenge, especially against the team that is in the mix of playoff home-ice positioning. But it was the Nashville Predators that would come out of Motown with the two points and a bead on taking home-ice away from the Detroit Red Wings with a 4-1 victory.
The first period played out like many between these two clubs have gone, a scoreless affair with each side testing the fences of the other and feeling out the weak spots in their game.
The second period was all Detroit at the start and Nashville had to weather a barrage of chances on Detroit’s first power play. With just over 6 minutes left, Tootoo played the puck back to himself off a defender and pulled back to the right point. He stayed steady and fed Gabriel Bourque in the high slot and Bourque simply turned around and fired, catching Howard off-guard with big Paul Gaustad screening in front for first blood and the 1-0 lead. Nashville would have to kill two more Detroit power plays at the end of the second period. On one such power play, Pekka Rinne made a game-saving point-blank stop on Zetterberg. After facing down numerous shots on net, the puck happened to slide right out to the right post with Zetterberg eagerly awaiting the puck to tap in for a game-tying score. Somehow, Rinne was able to dive back over and with his glove commit a first-degree larceny on Zetterberg. This save was a game-changer and the Red Wings just didn’t seem able to recuperate from Rinne’s thievery.
But in the final minute, a scramble in front would benefit the Predators. The Predators had shot multiple times on net with no success and the puck was laying in the slot, almost covered up by Brad Stuart only for Bouillon to snag it back and fire a wrister beating Howard at 19:27 of the second. (Being objective, the Red Wings fans have a legitimate argument that the play should maybe have been blown dead)
In the first 3 minutes of the third, the Predators pressed hard and fast and Radulov was all over the place for most of the game. Some determined skating led to Andrei Kostitsyn carrying the puck all the way down the boards, around the goal and while Radulov was cutting to the front, Kostitsyn fed him the puck for one of the prettiest tap-ins of recent memory. A twirl of the stick (one of his KHL celebrations) and Radulov had the Predators pull to a three goal lead and Alexander collecting two points.
Jiri Hudler would score with just over 3 minutes left in the game to make it a little more interesting and then the Red Army started to swarm the Predators zone. With an empty net, the Red Wings were firing at will, but some solid defensive work and lively sticks helped Nashville to nudge the puck out of the zone onto Weber’s stick to light the lamp with the empty-net goal, his 17th of the year.
Powerplay – 0 for 2, 0%
Penalty Kill – 3 for 3, 100%
My Three Stars:
#1: Alexander Radulov – 1 goal, 1 assist, +1 and the biggest thorn in the Red Wings side all night long. That tap-in from Andrei Kostitsyn is why having Radulov back in the fold makes the Predators a legit contender.
#2: Pekka Rinne – Stopped 31 of 32 shots with the save on Zetterberg’s “sure goal” being a huge momentum shift in the game. Rinne looked like a goalie ready for the post-season and the Wings had a tough time trying to break the seal.
#3: Roman Josi – In his first game back after suffering an upper-body injury, Josi goes out and leads the Predators with a +3 and 4 shots on goal. His pairing with Hal Gill is an immediate shutdown line and a huge help. Josi was 2nd in even strength TOI behind Suter.
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