The Nashville Predators faced the Detroit Red Wings at the Bridgestone Arena in their first meeting of the year. There is no love lost between these teams, and the contests usually feature a high level of intensity.
Tonight did not disappoint.
Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, and Jimmy Howard was in net for the Red Wings. The Predators quickly made life uncomfortable for Howard.
The Predators opened the scoring at 5:01 of the first period on the power play. Colin Wilson got the puck to Craig Smith and he sniped a shot to the top corner from a severe angle to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. This was Smith’s first goal of the year and it was a beauty. With little net to work with, Smith found the top corner at the far post over the shoulder of Howard.
The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 at 10:41 of the first period as Scott Hannan took a shot from the blue line that was re-directed by Gabriel Bourque in front of the net and past Howard. This goal was the result of Hannan getting the shot through and Bourque battling in the hard area in front of the net.
Shortly after this goal, Howard would leave the game with an upper body injury and Jonas Gustavsson would come in net for the Wings.
Dan Cleary would make it a 2-1 game at 15:01 with a shorthanded goal. Jonathan Blum turned the puck over behind the Predators net. Pavel Datsyuk stole the puck and got it to Cleary, who was alone in the slot and beat Rinne with a wrist shot.
The Wings out shot the Predators 11-8 in the first period.
The second period opened with the Wings dominating in puck possession and forechecking the life out of the Predators. Rinne made some good saves early in the period to keep the Wings off the board. The Predators did not get their first shot on net until 15:30 of the period.
Surviving the early push by the Wings, the Predators got their legs going and fired shots on Gustavsson, who came up with some good saves as well.
The second period ended scoreless and the Predators leading 2-1. The Predators out shot the Wings 12-7 in the period.
The fireworks came in an intense third period. Jordin Tootoo tied the game at 2 at 11:33 as he took a shot that appeared to be going wide of the net. However, it hit the skate of Kevin Klein and re-directed into the net past an out of position Rinne. This was Tootoo’s first goal of the season.
The Predators reclaimed a 3-2 lead at 12:54 of the third period as Roman Josi took a shot from the blue line that a screened Gustavsson did not see until the last second. It hit a Detroit defender in front of the net and caromed into the net.
Pavel Datsyuk would tie the game just 36 seconds later as he embarrassed David Legwand, Marty Erat, and Kevin Klein. Datysuk dangled the puck through the three Predators and beat Rinne with a wrist shot from the slot.
With no more scoring in the period, the Predators would once again head to overtime.
In the overtime period, Colin Wilson skated the puck in over the blue line and fired a shot that kicked off the end board and back out to the other side of the net. Shea Weber was pinching in from his defense position and got the puck on his stick and beat a sprawling Gustavsson with a wrist shot just 44 seconds into overtime.
Did you notice who scored in regulation for the Predators? Smith, Bourque, and Josi. These young players have played some quality minutes for the Predators, and Smith especially has begun to elevate his game. The Predators have to continue to get contributions from the younger players on their roster to be successful, and it is good to see them contributing in a big way.
Here is a blinding flash of the obvious: Pavel Datsyuk is good. Really good. He almost single handedly willed the Wings to victory and his mastery at handling the puck is amazing. His goal in the third was a highlight reel goal, beating three defenders and then Rinne with a wrist shot. As a hockey fan, I respect his skill. As a Predator fan, I am ready for him to retire.
The Wings are a wounded team, and tonight they were without the services of Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen, two key cogs that are injured. The extent of the injury to Howard is unknown. The Predators are relatively healthy but did not have Paul Gaustad, who was injured in the previous game against Colorado
The return of Patric Hornqvist is welcome for the Predators. His energy and effort are contagious, and he is fearless in going to the front of the net. His presence in the line up seems to energize the Predators.
It is troublesome that the Predators are having trouble holding a lead. It is especially bothersome that the Predators are giving up goals shortly after they score. This is an area that has to improve, and the Predators have to get better at protecting a lead.
With this win, the Predators are 8-4-5, good for 21 points and 4th in the West.
This was a gutsy win for the Predators, especially after a disappointing loss the day before. The Predators have shown resiliency. Now they are showing grit and their offense is starting to click.
It will have to in this short season.
My three stars:
1. Shea Weber
2. Pavel Datsyuk
3. Colin Wilson
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.