Predators show playoff form in beating Red Wings
NASHVILLE -- In a breakthrough playoff victory last April, the Nashville Predators eliminated the Detroit Red Wings by scoring the opening goal in each of their four wins before stifling their longtime nemesis with sparkling goaltending from Pekka Rinne.
It was a formula the Predators followed again Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, as Nashville capitalized on an early two-goal lead and held on for a 4-3 overtime win over its Central Division rival.
Predators defenseman Shea Weber's rebound past sprawling Red Wings goaltender Jonas Gustavsson just 44 seconds into overtime lifted Nashville to the win.
"There wasn't much of an angle; the defenseman's stick was there. I just tried to chip it by his stick and go towards the net," Weber said. "It just luckily slid in."
The Predators (8-4-5) earned its third victory in five games. Detroit (7-6-3) has lost a season-high four straight games. Predators coach Barry Trotz described the victory as a gutty win for a Nashville team that dropped a hard-fought 6-5 defeat in Colorado a day earlier.
On two occasions this week, the Predators will play on consecutive nights against a Red Wings team, coming off a day of rest. The teams will meet again in Detroit on Saturday night.
"(Detroit) has us twice this week where we're the tired team and they're just sitting there waiting for us," Trotz said. "It was a character win for us. They were geeked up."
Renne made 26 saves to earn the win. He made a glove save on Red Wings defender Niklas Kronwall at the 16:07 mark of the third period, before adding a pad save on a backhand shot by left winger Henrik Zetterberg and a diving save on a shot by right winger Patrick Eaves with 9:43 left in regulation.
The Red Wings, though, forced the extra session with two goals in the final nine minutes of the third period, including a spectacular individual effort from center Pavel Datsyuk. The four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner eluded five Predators on his game-tying goal at the 13:30 mark of the third.
"He controlled the puck unbelievable tonight," said Zetterberg of Datsyuk. "That goal is going to be a highlight goal for years. It's fun to see him play like that."
The goal came less than a minute after Nashville took a 3-2 lead on an unassisted goal by defenseman Roman Josi, his first goal of the season.
Leading 1-0 midway through the first period, the Predators doubled their lead on an even-strength goal by left winger Gabriel Bourque. Nashville center Mike Fisher outfought a Red Wings defender for the puck along the left boards, poking it back to defender Scott Hannan. Bourque shielded Detroit defender Kyle Quincey and deflected Hannan's slap shot past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
With Detroit defenseman Jakub Kindl in the box for his second penalty in the opening five minutes, the Predators took advantage with a power-play goal on the game's first score. Predators center Colin Wilson broke free after receiving a pass from Weber and fed an open Craig Smith on the left doorstep. Smith's one-timer into an empty goal gave the Predators a 1-0 lead.
The Red Wings scored their first goal on a short-handed situation at the 15:01 mark of the first. Datsyuk stole the puck from Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum behind the net and fed right winger Daniel Cleary just behind the left circle. Cleary beat Rinne with a top-shelf wrist shot into the left upper-netting of the goal.
Detroit tied the game on Jordan Tootoo's goal at 11:33 of the third period, but Josi put Nashville back in from less than 90 seconds later. Tootoo scored on a deflection off Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.
"They drove wide and threw it at the net," said Trotz of Tootoo's goal. "It went off Klein's skate and into the net. I'm happy for Toots, he's playing his regular Tootoo game."
Howard left the game with an undisclosed upper-body injury at 11:22 of the first period. It was another of a long line of injuries for the injury-plagued Red Wings this season. Detroit played without right winger Mikael Samuelsson, who returned for Sunday's loss to the Wild after missing 12 games with a groin injury. Left winger Johan Franzen is on injured reserve with a hip injury, while Todd Bertuzzi could remain out for the next couple weeks with a nagging back injury.
"You can't let it get to you, it's part of the game," Zetterberg said. "We just have to battle through it."
NOTES: Tootoo appeared in his first game at Bridgestone Arena since signing a three-year deal with Detroit last summer. Tootoo, who became a fan favorite in his eight seasons in Nashville, three points and 32 penalty minutes in 15 games. ... Smith netted a goal for the first time this season. His drought lasted 26 games, dating back to last April's regular-season finale against the Avalanche. ... Predators center Paul Gaustad was a pregame scratch with an upper-body injury. ... The meeting between the Central Division rivals was their first on the season. In the 2011-12 regular season, the teams split six games.
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