The Nashville Predators faced off tonight at 7:30 against a promising young Detroit Red Wings team. It had been a rough night for Nashville sports after a painful Titans playoff loss; everyone was hoping the Preds would provide at least a little consolation.
A last-minute trip to the protocol list for Red Wings backup Thomas Greiss meant that Alex Nedeljkovic was starting his second game in two nights, after allowing five goals in last night’s loss to the Dallas Stars. The Preds, meanwhile, were missing Eeli Tolvanen as well as Dante Fabbro; Cole Smith made it back into the lineup as the forwards were shuffled around to accommodate the absence.
The game didn’t start well for the Preds, with Detroit getting the first chance of the game and Juuse Saros having to make several stops early. While the Preds got some shots of their own off, the Red Wings’ defense was on the job, keeping them away from Nedeljkovic and pushing the puck back down the ice.
The first penalty call of the game also went against Nashville, a little less than halfway through the period, as Yakov Trenin was called for interference. Fortunately, the Preds’ penalty kill was on the job, stifling the Red Wings’ opportunities and making Saros’s job easier, and Nashville was able to kill the penalty.
That seemed to give the Preds a little bit of some much-needed momentum, as they responded with the closest thing to a flurry of shots they’d had yet. Still, after that, the Red Wings responded with another push, and drew another penalty as Matt Duchene was called for a double-minor for high-sticking with 2:45 remaining in the period.
Once again the Preds’ penalty kill was put on the spot. A few defensive-zone turnovers spiced the penalty kill up, but the home team was able to kill off the first minor and make it to intermission unscathed, with 1:15 of the second minor remaining. The dying seconds of the second minor featured Mattias Ekholm making a save as Saros was way out of the net, but the combined efforts of the Preds again prevailed, and the teams returned to five a side with the score still 0-0.
Mikael Granlund had a chance, Filip Forsberg tried to draw a penalty, and neither quite worked. The teams exchanged zone time and chances before the Red Wings started to run away with the period. Their momentum was halted when Joe Veleno was called for an illegal check to the head against Ekholm and the Preds got their first power play of the game.
Why “illegal check to the head” is only a two-minute minor, well, that’s—as Bryan said on the OTF twitter—a great question.
With just seconds left in the power play, Nick Cousins scored past a great screen by Luke Kunin to put the Preds up by one—Ekholm had an assist on the goal, which must have felt satisfactory. A moment later, before Paul had even announced Cousins’s goal to the eager crowd, Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg were able to convert one of their passing plays, and Duchene put the Preds up by two.
Before Paul had announced that one, or even finished announcing Cousins’s goal, Ryan Johansen almost managed to add to the total, but Nedeljkovic made the stop. Still, while the announcements were still going on, the Red Wings took another penalty, and the Preds got a long stretch of 6-on-5 before the whistle finally blew with 3:14 remaining.
The penalty elapsed without a score, but as Adam Erne came out of the penalty box he got the puck, broke in alone against Saros, and scored to bring the Red Wings within one with just over a minute left in the second period. The arena went quiet, and the Red Wings went back on the attack.
With seconds left in the period, a fight broke out between Matt Benning and Tyler Bertuzzi. The refs allowed the fight to continue until both players hit the ice. Benning was called for cross-checking, and Bertuzzi for slashing, as well as each getting a fighting major. Getting Bertuzzi off the ice is a net plus for the Preds here, but they were certainly getting a little thin defensively.
Granlund and Forsberg both tried to score as the period ended—Forsberg’s shot came just after the buzzer—but no luck, and the teams headed into the second intermission with the score 2-1 Preds.
The Preds started the period off well, but about five minutes into the period, Michael McCarron flipped the puck over the glass, putting his team back on the penalty kill. The teams then went to 4v4 when Michael Rasmussen was called for holding, as he grabbed Alexandre Carrier’s arm while trying to get to a rebound. The Preds’ power play came out aggressively but was denied at every attempt.
Nedeljkovic continued to deny the Preds’ shots at even strength until a particularly persistent shift by the Duchene line overwhelmed him. It was Filip Forsberg who eventually scored the 3-1 goal, off a pass from Matt Tennyson, but it could have been almost any of the players on that line.
The Red Wings pushed back hard, setting up in the Preds’ zone and hammering Saros with shots even before they pulled Nedeljkovic for the extra skater. However, not to be surpassed by his linemate, Duchene scored the 4-1 goal into the empty net.
With less than a minute and a half to go, Mark Borowiecki and Givani Smith dropped the gloves and left the game. Colton Sissons was then called for hooking, with :50 remaining. The Red Wings’ power play seemed mostly halfhearted, though Saros still had to make some saves, and time ran out on a Preds victory.