The Nashville Predators have been relegated to the role of spoiler as the season winds down, and they were in Detroit not only attempting to win their second game in a row but put a dent in the Red Wings playoff chances.
While the Red Wings were playing with a sense of urgency, the Predators could play loose and continue to audition some of their young players.
One of those would be Joonas Rask, who was called up from Milwaukee and was appearing in his first NHL game.
The Predators went with Chris Mason in net, while workhorse Jimmy Howard was in goal for the Wings.
The Predators welcomed back Mike Fisher, who has been out with an injury, and he made his presence felt early as he tallied the first goal of the game off a nice feed from Rich Clune.
The Wings answered with Valtteri Filppula getting free in the low slot and beating Mason with a quick wrist shot.
The Predators took a 2-1 lead on the power play as Shea Weber shoveled the puck to the front of the net. Mike Fisher was in front battling and Craig Smith took a shot that Howard stopped. Smith got his rebound and roofed the puck past Howard.
The first period ended with the Predators leading 2-1 but having to kill off 57 seconds of a Detroit power play to start the second period.
The Wings tied the game just 1:01 into the second period as the power play had just expired. Johan Franzen gathered in a rebound and roofed a shot from a sharp angle.
Patrick Eaves got lost by the Predators defense and whipped a one timer past mason from the face off circle to give the Wings a 3-2 lead. Eaves was all alone as the defense broke down and lost track of the forward in a dangerous scoring position.
The Predators kept playing with fire by taking penalties, and the it burnt them as late in the period the Predators were once again down a man and Pavel Datsyuk skated the puck into the zone and blistered a shot past a screened Chris Mason to make it 4-2.
The Predators gave up 3 goals in the second period through some miscues and sloppy play. If they were going to have a chance to get back into the game, they were going to have to elevate their play.
Through two periods, the Wings had out shot the Predators 25-15.
The injury bug continued to bedevil the Predators, as they lost Matt Halischuk in the second period and for the rest of the game with an upper body injury.
The Predators attempted to get back into the game with some good pressure in the Wings zone but could not get a puck past Howard.
Justin Abdelkader extended the Wings lead to 5-2 late in the period as he buried a rebound past Mason, and any hope the Predators had of climbing back into this game were squelched with that goal.
The game ended with that score as the Predators wilted down the stretch in face of the pressure from a desperate Wings team playing with greater urgency.
The Predators made a game of it early with solid play and good pressure in the Wings zone, but as the game wore on, their mistakes cost them dearly. Too many penalties and some blown coverage in the defensive zone allowed the Wings to get back in the game. Part of this is the presence of the new guys in the line up, and losing Halishcuk in the second period further jumbled the forward lines which didn't help the effort. The Wings were hungry and focused, and they capitalized on the mistakes the Predators made.
Welcome Back Mike
Mike Fisher returned to the line up and made his presence felt with the first goal of the game and was battling all night. It was good to see Fisher back and his effort and leadership on the ice will be a benefit to the young players.
Smith Shows Up
Craig Smith had a goal and an assist, his first points in...forever. Smith played with good jump and went to the hard area in front of the net for his goal. Smith has had a brutal season, but he has not stopped hustling and working. He has the potential to be a very good winger, but this season has been forgettable. hopefully, this is just a very bad sophomore slump and that these points will give him some confidence and get him untracked.
Gotta Have More
David Legwand has 21:18 of ice time; Sergei Kostitsyn had 19:08, the most among the forwards. They combined for 2 shots on goal. The Predators have to get more from these veteran forwards if they are going to be in any game. Tonight, they were invisible, and their offensive drought contributed to the Predators lack of production.
The result was about as expected as a team that is fighting to get into the playoffs matched up against a patchwork lineup. The effort by the Predators was spotty and the mistakes were costly. The Predators have one more chance to try to salve some wounds from this awful season.
Hope you bring it, boys.
My three stars;
1. Jimmy Howard
2. Pavel Datsyuk
3. Craig Smith