After dropping a painful two games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, resulting in days of Predators fans pleading for mercy from the hockey gods, the Nashville Predators took the ice tonight against the 3-9-2 Detroit Red Wings.
First Period Action
Pekka Rinne started in net for the Predators. Fillip Forsberg came hungry, but couldn’t put two great takes in the net early. Detroit’s Bobby Ryan had a terrific move towards the goal, but Rinne refused to comply. The Predators had some extended chances offensively—a few even exciting—but exciting chances didn’t convert into goals. It was encouraging to see the Predators at least look offensively-minded, even if it was against a struggling Red Wings team.
And then it happened.
A tripping penalty on Dante Fabbro put the Red Wings on the power play. Every Predators fan shuddered collectively as the Preds prepared for the penalty kill. Playing against the Red Wings’ abysmal power play was a good chance to build confidence, and the Predators killed the penalty without allowing a single shot on goal. Immediately following that special teams opportunity, Matt Duchene used his violation voodoo and drew a penalty to put the Predators on the power play.
With the man advantage, Filip Forsberg sent a gorgeous cross-ice pass to a waiting Ryan Ellis who buried the puck at 14:58 with one of the better-looking goals of the season.
The Red Wings closed the period with their first real extended play in their offensive zone. Despite the Predators finally clearing the puck, Colton Sissons slipped, and Robby Fabbri found the back of the net with an assist from Anthony Mantha at 19:25.
The first period ended 1-1.
Second Period Action
How would the Predators respond to giving up a goal with less than a minute left in the first period? Mental toughness under pressure has been a focus for Head Coach John Hynes, and this was an opportunity to measure growth.
Forsberg and Arvidsson had an early two-on-one chance, but Forsberg’s pass to Arvy was interrupted and the only thing that ended up in the goal was #33.
And then it happened...again.
Tinordi headed to the sin bin on a tripping call, and the Predators were back to playing a man down. Rinne saved two shots, and the penalty kill units clogged the neutral zone, won a defensive zone face off, and made several good clears. Assisted by the Red Wings’ tendency for offsides and bad passing, the Predators logged a second successful (and statistically-useful) penalty kill.
The second period lacked offensive chances in the first half, but the Predators were given a gift from above when Givani Smith caught Matt Benning with a high stick. The Preds’ first unit set up early in the offensive zone, but couldn’t find the net. The second power play unit couldn’t get set up, and the power play ended with one better-rested Red Wing and no change in score.
The Predators struggled to play clean hockey, but were bailed out by Rinne on more than one occasion.
Play wasn’t pretty, but fortunately Detroit’s play was just slightly uglier. The Predators struggled to generate meaningful, sustained offense and at times appeared haphazard on defense. The hockey gods smiled on the guys in gold after a bad pass by Yakov Trenin ended up on the stick of Frans Nielsen in the slot, but a ricochet off the bar spared the Predators.
Finally after what could only be called an anemic offensive period for the Preds, Calle Jarnkrok made a sharp pass to Matt Duchene, who tapped the puck through Greiss’ five-hole at 19:19.
But to prevent any sort of momentum or confidence growing in Smashville, Marc Staal shot the puck past RInne a mere thirteen seconds later. Again, the Predators ended a period allowing the Red Wings to even up the game 2-2.
Third Period Action
And then it happened...again.
Less than a minute into in the third period Mikael Granlund headed to the penalty box after lifting the puck up and out of play, and the Predators were forced to kill another penalty. A chance by the Red Wings was answered by a shorthanded chance for the Preds, but unsurprisingly neither team could score.
Barely back on the ice from the sin bin, Granlund drew a penalty this time. Both power play units had set up in the offensive zone, but neither group could find the back of the net with the man advantage.
The Predators were granted another chance on the power play a mere three minutes later as Ryan Ellis drew a penalty. Again, the Predators spent a chunk of time in the offensive zone, but no goal.
The hockey gods dozed off in the middle of the third period (as did the Predators and Red Wings and possibly some fans as well). While the Predators looked in control for stretches, they couldn’t capitalize on possession and didn’t play with confidence defensively.
And then it happened. You know of what I speak.
Yakov Trenin was called for hooking with six minutes remaining in the game. The Predators had a good shorthanded chance, but couldn’t finish. Rinne kept the puck out of the net, and the Predators survived another penalty kill.
With three minutes remaining in the game, Rinne stopped a charging Mantha with a huge save, but Greiss returned the favor on a Matt Duchene point-blank slot shot. This game was going to come down to the wire.
Dante Fabbro became the hero the Predators needed. A shot from the blue line sailed past Greiss at 19:01.
The Red Wings immediately took a time out and went empty net but couldn’t tie this game up, and the Predators won 3-2.
- You like bacon? Apparently so does Pekka Rinne, because he saved the Predators’ bacon all game long. It was vintage Pekka. Without his key saves, the Predators could have dropped this game to the Red Wings.
- If the Predators are going to spend time in the offensive zone, they have got to score. Despite spending plenty of time in the O zone, the Predators only logged 3 goals. That isn’t production that will propel this team up the standings.
- To measure how good you are, you play against the best. To measure how bad you are, you play against the worst. Playing against Tampa Bay revealed a lot about this team. Playing against Detroit did as well. While the Predators walk away with two points, this game was played at bottom-of-the-division level. The team has to level up if they want to be taken seriously.
The Predators take their two points and perhaps a smidge of momentum into their rematch with Detroit on Saturday night at 7:00 PM.