The Nashville Predators extended their losing streak to five games in a 4-2 loss to Detroit on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena. With the win the Wings have matched the Preds 61 points in the tight Western Conference race.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Drew Miller and Henrik Zetterberg each had a goal and an assist to lead the Wings to the victory. Jason Williams had the other goal in his first game back after missing eight weeks of play. Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula each has two assists.
Scoring goals for the Preds were Francis Bouillon and Shea Weber.
Jimmy Howard was clearly the star of the game as he stopped 46 of 48 Predator shots while Dan Ellis allowed four goals on 29 Wings shots in the loss.
Play at the start of the game was fast and furious with both teams skating full out. Detroit went on the power play early at 3:31 when Marty Erat hooked Patric Eaves. The Wings managed only one shot during their power play.
Play continued to be wide open with every inch of the ice being fought for through the middle of the period. Both teams had numerous scoring chances.
For the third game in a row a questionable penalty call led to the opponent's power play goal. This time, Ryan Jones was called for hooking Niklas Kronwall at 16:28 when Kronwall clearly was holding Jones' stick. The ensuing goal was scored by Jason Williams with one second left in the man advantage at 18:27.
The Predators came back quickly at 19:36 when Francis Bouillon took a cross ice pass from J. P. Dumont and flipped it past Jimmy Howard from the right side face off circle to even the score at 1-1.
Detroit out shot the Predators 11-10 for the period and also led in the Corsi numbers 22-17.
From the start of the second period until the end of the game, the Predators controlled the flow of the game and had good presence on the ice.
The Red Wings returned to the power play at 5:04 in the second when Francis Bouillon was called for slashing on a play where a loose puck had to be swept from the blue ice. At 5:55 Pavel Datsyuk fed the puck to Nicklas Lidstrom who was skating into the slot and lifted it above Dan Ellis into the net to put the Wings ahead 2-1.
J. P. Dumont was sent to the penalty box at 6:54 when he hit Brad Stuart with a high stick. Nick Spaling had one of the best scoring chances of the Wings power play on a breakaway the Howard corralled.
As the power play expired Drew Miller redirected a Brad Stuart shot past Dan Ellis to put the Wings ahead 3-1 at 8:57 in the second period.
The Predators had their first opportunity on the man advantage at 9:54 when Jonathan Ericsson was called for hooking Ryan Jones. The Predators managed four shot but did not put the puck in the net.
At 16:20, Patric Hornqvist hit the crossbar on a break away as he was being hooked by Nicklas Lidstrom to put the Preds back on the power play. The Predators got four more shots on the man advantage, again with nothing to show for it.
At 18:56 a minor skirmish broke out when Jerred Smithson was cross-checked into the wall by Niclas Kronwall. The period expired with 56 seconds remaining on the carry-over penalty.
During the second period, the Predators were playing aggressive, desperate hockey and out shot the Wings 20-10. On the Corsi side the Preds were up 33-16 for the period.
The third period started with the Preds continuation of the power play but they did not put either of their shots on net into the goal.
The Predators pulled within a goal at 5:57 when Shea Weber snaked a shot through traffic and into the net to make it 3-2.
The game was almost tied at when J. P.Dumont and Cal O'Reilly broke toward the Wing's goal and Dumont gave the perfect pass to O'Reilly who went high and nicked the crossbar.
The Wings went back up by two on a fluke play when Henrik Zetterberg shot the puck off of Shea Weber and then recovered the rebound at the red line and sent the sharp angled shot at the net and it ricocheted off Dan Ellis into the net to make it 4-2.
At 18:25, Brian Rafalski was called for interference giving the Predators one last sign of life. With Ellis pulled and the Preds on the six on four for the remainder of the game, the Preds were only credited with two shots and did not score.
The Predators out shot the Wings 18- 8 in the third period and 48 to 29 for the game. Amazingly, the Predators has 81 Corsi shots compared to 51 for the Red Wings.
Storylines From The Game
Jimmy Howard Stopped A Ton of Rubber...
Jimmy Howard had an unbelievable night in goal for the Wings. With the rubber launched in his direction 81 times during the game he had few opportunities to relax. Officially he stopped forty six shots.
The Predators had many scoring opportunities and had twelve shots on the man advantage so Howard had many quality saves. It was Howard's first full game against the Predators and he should have plenty of confidence in the remaining three meetings of the two teams.
Predators Increased Aggressiveness...
Nashville played far more aggressively than they have in the prior four games on the current losing streak. Eighty-one Corsi shots is close to the season high for number of overall shots attempted, blocked or missed.
Again, with no luck on the special teams and scoring twice on 34 even strength shots, it was not enough to win against a quality team on the road.
I am not a big believer in the "hockey god" principal but after watching the Preds win so many games earlier this season with what seemed like "smoke and mirrors," a game like tonight could almost convince me that there was something to it.
Special Teams Continue to Plague Preds...
Officially, the Predators penalty kill gave up two goals on four Red Wing power play attempts but the third Red Wings goal came three seconds after the end of a penalty kill on a continuation of play when the PK unit was still scrambling.
On the flip side, the Predator power play remained impotent with nothing to show in four man advantage attempts. To their credit, the Preds did have twelve shots on goal and were more active than they have been recently.
The Predators are ranked second in the league in five on five goals but continue to struggle on the man advantage.
The Predators planned to attempt to return to Nashville after the game in order to prepare to meet the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night at the Sommet Center. The Preds play four home games in eight days before finishing up on the road before the two week Olympic break.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass