The Nashville Predators looked to end the Detroit Red Wings 21 game home winning streak at the Joe in a contest between two Central Division foes fighting for division and conference supremacy. The Wings home winning streak was nothing short of amazing, and the Predators faced a daunting task trying to derail the home juggernaut that was Detroit.
Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators, while Joey MacDonald, doing an admirable job filling in for the injured Jimmy Howard, manned the pipes for the Wings.
The Predators were playing without Patric Hornqvist, who was placed on injured reserve today with an upper body injury suffered in the game with the Boston Bruins. The Wings were missing Patric Eaves and Dan Cleary.
The Predators and the Wings both generated some good scoring chances, and both goaltenders were equal to the task that the opposing offenses presented. That changed at 12:44 of the first as the Predators defense left Johan Franzen alone in the low slot and the feed from Todd Bertuzzi was on his tape, allowing him to bury a quick wrist shot behind Rinne for a 1-0 Detroit lead.
The first period ended with the score 1-0 and the Wings recording 14 shots on goal to 9 for Nashville.
One mistake, and the Predators found the puck in the back of their net.
While not a bad period for the Predators, their offensive effort was going to have to improve with more shots and quality shots.
The second period, long a bane for the Predators, saw them out work, out hit, and out hustle the Wings. The Predators forecheck was working, bottling the Wings up in their zone and creating chances. The Predators best scoring chance came on a set up from Sergei Kostitsyn that sent Marty Erat in alone on MacDonald. Unfortunately for the Predators, MacDonald stopped the glorious scoring chance, as he had done so far during the game.
The Predators finally broke through at 14:58 of the second as Jordin Tootoo stole the puck from Jakob Kindl and fed Nick Spaling in front of the MacDonald. Spaling cashed in on the chance, tying the game at 1.
For the Predators, this had to be a big relief. Lots of chances and unable to beat MacDonald, the pressure was mounting.
The period ended tied at 1; Nashville had 8 shots on goal in the second, while Detroit had 7.
This presaged a third period that would be a battle.
And a battle it was. Both teams went up and down the ice, created chances, but could not finish.
That would change with just 5 seconds to go as Pavel Datsyuk broke in on a breakaway and beat Rinne over his shoulder to take a 2-1 lead, which would be the final score.
Let's face it, the Wings are the best team in the NHL, and the Predators competed and gave them all they wanted for the duration of the game. The Wings were just a little bit better tonight, but a little bit means a big difference in the outcome of a game like this.
I thought the effort by the Predators was solid. They forechecked well, were solid on defense, and except for two plays, could have won this game.
Yet those two plays were the difference, and those are the plays that elite teams make.
If I were to criticize any aspect of the Predators game, it was that they did not finish their chances. They had 4 breakaway attempts, none of which they could bury. They had some good scoring chances at even strength and could not finish. This is something that has to improve for this team.
This was at least one point the Predators gave away. That is painful.
The thing the Predators have to do now is learn from that pain and channel it. Use it to start another winning streak.
And don't let another team eke out a win.
My three stars:
1. Pavel Datsyuk
2. Nick Spaling
3. Johan Franzen