The Nashville Predators have shown that they have had an inability to close out teams teams in tight contests. Tonight, the Predators found themselves in another such contest against Detroit at the Joe. Leading 2-1 going into the third period, the conventional wisdom was that the Predators would not hang tough and get a much needed win.
The conventional wisdom was wrong, as the Predators played solid, tough hockey and defeated the Red Wings 3-2.
The difference in this game was simply that the Predators did not back off when they held the lead. They played tough defense and their forecheck was aggressive in all three periods, creating havoc in the the Detroit zone and doing a great job of forcing the Wings to play defense and not set up clean breakouts.
This is the formula for the Predators to secure a victory, and tonight, they mastered that formula with an good effort in all three zones.
Oh yeah, the Predators got a stellar effort in net tonight from Anders Lindback. Lindy is going to carry the load while Pekka Rinne is out with a knee injury, and against the best team in the NHL, he demonstrated that he is more than equal to the task.
The Wings outshot the Predators 37-24 for the game. They outshot the Predators in every period, including a 16-4 advantage in the third period. This is typical of a Detroit team as they put pressure on the net. Lindback was poised in net and moved well all night. He did not give up many second chance rebounds and did a good job of tracking the puck. During the course of the game, he was called upon to make some quality saves, and he came up big when he had to do so.
The Predators opened the scoring at 19:27 of the first period as Colin Wilson took a beautiful centering pass from Cal O'Reilly, who drove the net and drew the defense and Wings netminder Jimmy Howard to him. O'Reilly slid a nice pass to Wilson, who was parked alone at the top of the crease and had an open net yawning before him. Wilson's sixth goal of the season made it 1-0 for the Predators.
Nashville extended the lead to 2-0 just 49 seconds into the second period. Sergei Kostitsyn sent a low, hard shot toward the net. Howard got a pad on it but gave up a rebound that Marty Erat was able tip tip back toward the net. The puck hit Marcel Goc and a Detroit defender and caromed into the net to give the Predators a two goal advantage.
The Predators had a glorious chance to extend the lead as Tomas Holmstrom was called for a double minor for high sticking Marty Erat. Instead, the Predators managed to give up a short handed goal to Pavel Datsyuk two minutes into the power play. Detroit managed to kill off the rest of the power play as the Predators were unable to generate any quality scoring chances.
Momentum to the Wings. And a huge "uh-oh" for the Predator nation.
In the third period, the Predators faced a hard charging Detroit squad. You knew that the Wings would be coming and coming hard. Lindback made some great saves to keep the Wings off the board. The Predators did not go back on their heels, however. The defense did a good job- for the most- in keeping the Wings to the perimeter and not allowing many chances from in close. The Predators foreheck forced the Wings to use up valuable time in their zone and slowed them in the neutral zone.
Unfortunately, the Predators offensive effort was virtually invisible in the third period. Again, there was that nagging sensation that the Wings would somehow manage to tie the game due to their offensive prowess.
That feeling would change at 14:37 of the third period, as J.P. Dumont skated the puck through the neutral zone with speed and rifled a shot from the faceoff circle that would beat Howard high glove side.
That goal gave the Predators some breathing room and amped up the sense of desperation for the Red Wings. Their effort would be rewarded at 18:27 of the third with the Detroit net empty and the extra attacker on the ice. Johan Franzen launched a shot from the point which found its way through traffic and past Lindback to cut the margin to 3-2.
With time running down and the Wings net once again empty, Detroit was in the Nashville zone and applying great pressure. Nick Spaling attacked the puck at the point and was able to clear a hand pass all the way down the ice to melt the final seconds on the clock and the Predators had secured just their 10th win in their history in the Joe.
In this win, they Predators did the things that they haven't done in previous games that they have given away: a continued strong forecheck; refusing to sit back on their heels in their zone; and sound defensive coverage. Kudos to Marty Erat, Joel Ward, and Nick Spaling who were superb on the penalty kill and on the forecheck in the Wings zone.
The win is tempered somewhat by the fact that David Legwand, who was playing for the first time in 9 games due to an injury, left the game in the second period and did not return. It is assumed that he aggravated the same lower body injury that had previously sidelined him.
The Predators have shown an annoying propensity to blow leads and not play with mental toughness. Tonight, that was not the case.
You have seen what it takes to beat the best.
It's time to bring that effort to the ice every night, boys.
My three stars:
1. Anders Lindback
2. J.P. Dumont
3. Marty Erat