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Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators Liveblog

OK, here we go - the 1st half of a home-and-home that just might settle things in what has been a very tight Central Division this season. With only a dozen games left in the season, the Red Wings are three points back with a game in hand, so two regulation victories by either team this week would open up a relatively sizeable gap at this late stage. For Nashville, a lively sellout crowd is expected, but one question will be how heavy the Red Wings support is. Traditionally, there have been a huge number of Detroit fans in the house for these games.

Tonight's starting goalies: Chris Osgood for Detroit, and Tomas Vokoun for Nashville, same as in their matchup last week. Peter Forsberg is still out of the lineup for the Predators.

18:21 1st: The Predators get the first good chance with J.P. Dumont feeding Jason Arnott down close, but they fail to convert. After Kyle Calder storms down the right wing and pings a shot off the post, he picks up the rebound, carries it around behind the net, and takes a backhanded wrap-around attempt that Vokoun kicks out. Robert Lang picks up the loose puck in the low slot and puts it home to put Detroit up 1-0, his 18th of the year (assists to Kyle Calder and Jiri Hudler). Will this be the winning goal in Kukla's challenge today?

NOTE: Calder was a real handful for Nashville the last time these two teams played.

14:38 1st: Jordin Tootoo gets the crowd buzzing with a big hit on Mathieu Schneider. Just 30 seconds later, Schneider retaliates with a hit as the play comes out of the Nashville end, and takes an interference penalty for Detroit. Nashville goes on the power play, and Tootoo's done his job.

12:58 1st: The Nashville power play doesn't do much in the first minute, but coming out of their own end David Legwand carries the puck over to the boards as he crosses into the Detroit zone, drawing three defenders. Alexander Radulov is left wide open to accept the pass coming down the middle, and he has plenty of time to pick his spot with a wrist shot that beats Osgood to the stick side and ties the score at 1-1 (assists to David Legwand and Kimmo Timonen). For a rookie whose scoring pace dropped off after the New Year, that kind of goal can be a confidence-builder.

11:45 1st: Tootoo's agitation pays off again, as Chris Chelios steps up to try and level #22 for Nashville, and yields a 2-on-1 to the Predators as a result, with Ramzi Abid getting a dangerous scoring chance that Osgood deflects to the corner. Brett Lebda goes to the box for hooking during the odd man rush and Nashville goes on the power play again...

9:38 1st: Detroit kills off the penalty, and looks dangerous to score on the PK to boot.

7:56 1st: Nashville gets their third consecutive power play, this time when Osgood transgresses against the Mighty Trapezoid. Too bad Mike Keenan and Scotty Bowman aren't coaching these days, I'm sure they'd have some innovative techniques for counseling goalies in that area of the game.

2:12 1st: Darryl Bootland for Detroit levels Ryan Suter along the boards, much as Tootoo did earlier to Schneider. Both teams start to pick up the physical intensity, as Marek Zidlicky rides Nick Lidstrom roughly into the boards behind the net...

In the final minute of the 1st Nashville gets a couple good rebound opportunities, including a dangerous attempt by Radulov. As we head into intermission tied at one goal apiece, there have been good chances at both ends (more for Nashville given the three power plays), and the aggressive hitting will hopefully set a tone for the rest of the night.

18:25 2nd: Detroit finally gets their first power play, as Darcy Hordichuk gets whistled for a careless high stick to the head of Chris Chelios. They immediately get good possession in the Nashville zone and set up an open slapper for Pavel Datsyuk, which Vokoun turns aside.

16:25 2nd: Nashville kills of the penalty, but shortly thereafter Kyle Calder can't connect with a dribbling puck in front of a wide-open net that would have given Detroit the lead.

15:30 2nd: Kris Draper heads behind the Nashville net but sneaks a centering pass into the slot where Kirk Maltby snaps it up high for a 2-1 Detroit lead (assists to Kris Draper and Valtteri Filppula). The Nashville defense got caught watching Draper carry the puck, and left Maltby all alone.

13:50 2nd: After a deflected shot goes into the stands, Tootoo and Bootland get into a tussle down in the corner that sends both of them to the box (with an additional minor to Tootoo), and gets the crowd buzzing again. The linesmen jump in right away, apparently not wanting things to escalate tonight. Frankly the Preds needed something like that to get them going, as Detroit has carried the play thus far in the period. For now, however, Detroit gets its second power play chance.

11:50 2nd: Nashville smoothly kills the penalty off, and the physical play picks up once again, as Shea Weber gets rough with Filppula along the boards.

9:47 2nd: Osgood looks shaky as he gives up a juicy rebound off a long Radulov shot, but he then shuts down another good chance for Radulov off a feed from Suter out of the corner. There isn't much margin for error in a game like this, however, so look for the Predators to keep working the traffic in front of the Detroit net.

6:51 2nd: Nashville gets their first PP chance of the period, as Maltby goes to the box for slashing. The Preds go with Erat-Arnott-Kariya up front, with Timonen and Weber on defense.

4:51 2nd: Detroit kills of the penalty, and starts taking control again as Datsyuk carries in dangerously but the Wings fail to score. Detroit is playing a great road game, keeping the Preds bottled up for most of this period. Nashville then picks up a too-many-men penalty, which gives the Red Wings the man advantage...

2:40 2nd: The Wings are setting up good chances on the PP, first a close-in stuff attempt by Tomas Holmstrom, then a wrister from 20 feet or so by Datsyuk that he fired wide.

The Predators get a couple shots in the final minute, but overall, the Red Wings dictated the pace in the 2nd period, keeping the heat off a less-than-impressive Chris Osgood. After being outshot 13-4 in the 1st period, Detroit outshot Nashville 15-5 in the 2nd. Osgood's tentativeness in goal is what gives Nashville its best chance to come back heading into the 3rd...

19:10 3rd: Datsyuk makes his presence known with a nifty move down low that resulted in a backhanded shot when everyone else in the arena thought he was taking the puck behind the net.

18:36 3rd: Jiri Hudler puts the Wings ahead 3-1 on a quick shot off a feed from Kyle Calder. Calder picked the puck up as it came around the boards, easily shouldering off a Nashville checker before feeding a soft pass to Hudler. Once again, Calder's strength on the puck makes the Predators pay.

16:43 3rd: A couple catfish hit the ice. With the home team down by two goals, I'm not sure whether folks are trying to get the Predators motivated, or they're ditching their seafood before heading for the parking lot...

16:09 3rd: Datsyuk comes flying in with a dangerous chance, and a couple rebound opportunities follow for Detroit, before the Preds get things covered. The fans get riled up after some pushing & shoving, but the Red Wings continue to dominate play.

15:59 3rd: Nashville draws a holding call on Hudler, but before the whistle blows, Paul Kariya gets in behind the Detroit defense and tries a short-side wrister, but Osgood makes the pad save to maintain the two-goal lead.

14:53 3rd: The Preds get their best shot yet, drawing another call on Detroit to establish about a minute of 5-on-3 power play time, as Chris Chelios goes off for holding the stick. Just eight seconds in, Martin Erat puts in a rebound shot to pull Nashville within a goal at 3-2 (assists to Jason Arnott and Paul Kariya). Since the oldest penalty expires for Detroit, that still leaves Nashville with 1:52 of PP time to tie things up.

11:27 3rd: Detroit kills off the rest of the PP, but Nashville maintains possession in the offensive zone and draws another penalty, this time on Nicklas Kronwall for holding Ramzi Abid behind the Detroit net.

10:47 3rd: Osgood makes perhaps his best stop of the night, shutting down Jason Arnott from about two feet outside the crease. Arnott is visibly frustrated, rolling his eyes after the save.

7:36 3rd: Arnott awkwardly runs over teammate Erat as they cross into the Detroit zone (offsides), and Erat has to be helped off the ice by two players. He heads right back down the tunnel...

6:00 3rd: Audible chants of "Let's Go Predators" are heard, but Detroit slows the pace down to where they like it, casually dumping the puck into the Nashville end and preventing the Predators from building up any steam through center ice.

4:33 3rd: The Preds get one more power play, after a goaltender interference call against Detroit. Nashville fails to set things up, and Detroit kills the penalty off without any significant shots given up.

2:02 3rd: Kyle Calder puts a fork in this one, putting Detroit up 4-2 late in the period. Calder had Hudler heading to the net, and his centering attempt actually deflected off a Nashville defenseman's skate, beating Vokoun short-side (Vokoun was starting to come over to play the pass).

1:21 3rd: Filppula takes advantage of a terrible Nashville giveaway (J.P. Dumont skated right by the puck, expecting a teammate to take it) and goes in all alone on Vokoun, beating him to the glove side for a 5-2 Red Wings advantage. The crowd has gone dead quiet...

The final score is 5-2 Detroit. The win pulls Detroit within 1 point of Nashville in the standings, making tomorrow night's matchup even more important! See you then...

My 3 Stars:
1) Kyle Calder (1G, 2A) played a tough offensive game all night long, working hard and producing results.
2) Valtteri Filppula (1G 1A).
3) Alexander Radulov (1G)

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