Detroit finds themselves in a position all alone. With a huge 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena Saturday evening, the Red Wings are the only team to prevent back to back losses in regulation with Tomas Tatar’s game winner.
The Red Wings would be looking for the sweep against the Predators after beating them back on Jan. 17 5-2. With a comeback over San Jose Thursday, the Wings close out their road trip visiting the Predators where they are considered one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
They have gone 2-2-1 since winning six straight in February. Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg will be out a fourth straight game while Brendan Smith stays in despite taking an injury in Thursday’s matchup. The Red Wings will depend on their young group of players, as their contributions against the Sharks would need to repeat it.
The Red Wings took great scoring chances on Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne and made it a 1-0 lead on Joakim Andersson’s patience for teammate Brendan Smith to get in position. Smith fired the puck above the glove and into the net for his fourth of the season and a strong statement against their former Central Division rivals. “I don’t feel any pain after that one,” said Smith to Fox Sports Detroit reporter Trevor Thompson. “I think the pass was just unbelievable. Andy has some great vision and found me coming out of the slot and I was lucky to put it over Rinne’s shoulder.”
During the TV timeout with five minutes left in the period, Darren Helm left the ice with an upper body injury and wouldn’t return to the bench putting the Red Wings down one of their fastest skaters with the tendency to score. It was determined that Seth Jones hit Helm on the top of the boards where Helm’s head made impact with it. The Detroit defense held their part of the deal holding the Predators to nine shots as the period came to an end.
The Red Wings opened up the second period with tough coverage on the Predators where Tomas Jurco cut Jones from the puck giving Drew Miller the possession. He scored firing into through the five whole of Rinne to record his fourth of the season while playing in his 400th game. Nashville took the faceoff into the Detroit end where they caused a breakdown in defense for the Red Wings where Matt Cullen went in front of the empty net of Gustavsson gaining his sixth on an easy backhander cutting the margin in half.
The Predators tied the game three and a half minutes later on a Cody Franson drive from the far end that went off the pads of Jonas Gustavsson where Mike Fisher took a rebound shot scoring his 15th that tied the game at two. Nashville continued having a stronger rush over Detroit shooting 11 times through 12 minutes of play.
The Red Wings were getting frustrated with Nashville in charge and began making mistakes. Tatar got into an argument with Colin Wilson that set both players with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Detroit went down two men with Smith caught holding onto to Filip Forsberg giving the Predators a 4 on 3 power play. Nashville got the lead on a one timer from the blue line where captain Shea Weber scored his 15th. It was the third unanswered goal for the Predators causing the Red Wings to figure out how to regroup and fight back in the third after a rough finish to forty minutes.
Detroit played hard in the opening minutes of the third, where Justin Abdelkader put a play into motion passing the puck to rookie Alexey Marchenko where the youngster fired a straight shot high on the slot over Rinne to score his first NHL goal of his career to tie the game. “Marchy is a real good intelligent player and plays well,” said Coach Mike Babcock.
After allowing two power plays to the Predators, the Red Wings got their third chance of the game to be the charm. A play from Niklas Kronwall ended with Tatar passing the puck with Pavel Datsyuk. As he was making another pass, the puck inadvertently went into the net giving him his 25th and the Red Wings the lead at 4-3. “I tried to pass to Pav again and I think it went off the skate into the net so I got lucky,” said Tatar.
Nashville were handed chances in the final minutes of the period nearly scoring on a puck near the crease that Gustavsson laid down on to end the play. He successfully held back Weber’s attempts to let his hard shot do the talking to even up the game but was denied in the long run. “That’s the fun part being a goalie when you’re up one goal and you have the pressure in the end there it’s a lot of fun being in that situation,” said Gustavsson. Weber took nine shots on the net during the game, which is a lot for any goalie to deal with. “I bet it’s not easy to save those shots from Weber but he was strong for us and big and he made lots of good saves,” said Tatar about his netminder.
The Predators went on the power play but couldn’t get one in on Gustavsson. Predators coach Peter Laviolette pulled Rinne from the net to give them a 6 on 4 chance to get the game into overtime. They lost their opportunity as the Red Wings went on the power play and were handed a 5 on 3 with ten seconds left to fall in back to back regulation losses. It leaves Detroit as the only team left in the NHL to prevent that from happening.
Detroit finished their six game run on the road with four of six wins and wining nine games when trailing in the third period. The win couldn’t be done without the tremendous goaltending of Gustavsson who dealt with the pressure of Weber’s shot along with handling another tough game making 25 saves in his third win this season. “I felt good this was a different game, more shots and you always feel good when you win no matter what but as long as we get the win I’m happy.
With the road trip over, Detroit returns home to begin a four game home stand with a short away trip in between. The Red Wings sit in third place a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and with a good finish to the road trip the tenacity of the Red Wings shows. “Every goal is a one goal game and you’re in a battle each and every night,” said Coach Babcock. “I thought our guys stepped up with all the injuries making it harder and well get right back at her.”