The Nashville Predators secured their return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday afternoon.
After Pavel Datsyuk sent the game into over time with thirty-seven seconds left, Ryan Suter had the game winner sixteen seconds into the extra period to give the Preds a huge win.
In addition to Suter's big goal, Marty Erat, Shea Weber and J P Dumont picked up goals. Joel Ward had two assists and Suter had an assist to go with his goal.
Pekka Rinne was the winner in goal stopping 28 of 31 Red Wing shots while Jimmy Howard took his first loss in eight games as he stopped 20 of 24 Pred shots.
The Pred's win broke Detroit's seven game win streak and moved the Preds two points ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.
The game started with a continuation of the same style of play as last Saturday's double shut out between the two teams. There was intense skating and tight defense on both ends of the ice.
The first crack in the dam came at 17:06 when Francis Bouillon was called for interference, putting Detroit on the power play. At 18:15, Brian Rafalski took advantage of a screened Pekka Rinne with a goal, giving the Wings a 1-0 lead.
In the first period, Detroit out shot Nashville 10-6.
At 1:36 in the second period, Ryan Suter made a great keep-in and passed it to Shea Weber who unloaded a bomb through traffic to tie the game 1-1.
Marty Erat gave the Preds a 2-1 lead at 5:01 in the second when he did a spin-o-rama and fired the puck in the direction of the net. The shot was wide but deflected off the skate of Henrik Zetterberg and found its way past a startled Howard and in to the net.
The game was re-tied 2-2 at 16:01 on a shot from the point by Nicklas Lidstrom. The pass came out to Lidstrom from Tomas Holstrom near the net. It looked like one that Rinne should have been able to grab.
The Preds quickly re-took the lead at19:17 when there was a lot of movement around the Wings net and Dustin Boyd passed the puck to J P Dumont who was in front of the net and he was able to wrist it past Howard for a 3-2 Preds lead.
During the second period, the Preds clearly outplayed the Wings, out shooting them 11-7.
The third period was filled with playoff style, hard-fought action, with scoring opportunities on both ends of the ice. With the goalie pulled, the Wings were finally able to break through with a goal by Pavel Datsyuk with 37 seconds left in regulation.
The game went to overtime but it didn't take long for Joel Ward to find Ryan Suter in the open to the left of Howard. So at 16 seconds into overtime, Suter sent the game winner past Howard to give the Preds the win.
Storylines From The Game
Sixty Minute Effort...
The Predators gave a full effort for the entire sixty plus minutes of the game. After going down at the end of the first period, the Predators came out in the second and scored two quick goals to take the lead.
Later in the second period when Detroit tied the game, the Preds again bounced back to go ahead once again.
The crowning achievement was the Predator's resiliency in coming out to claim victory 16 seconds into overtime after giving up the goal to Datsyuk in the closing moments of regulation.
The Preds were a determined team and appear ready for some playoff hockey.
The Predators got significant contributions from all eighteen skaters that took the ice on Saturday. Every inch of the ice was fought over and the Preds won more than their share of battles in the corners and along the walls.
Dustin Boyd played an outstanding game on both ends of the ice and almost scored near the end of the game when he shook loose from Lidstron and caught a post after faking out Howard.
Joel Ward, Jerred Smithson, and Nick Spaling were extraordinary in their effort and puck presence while everyone else contributed as well.
Playoff Race Continues...
While the Preds clinched a berth in the playoffs, they are still seeking a 100 point season and as high a seed as they can get so they are not ready to rest on their laurels.
At the end of the game, Detroit was two points behind the Preds at 96 points with two extra games to play. Los Angeles was in seventh, four points behind the Preds (94) with three games in hand.
A real dogfight developed for the final seed on Friday when Calgary beat Colorado giving each team 89 points. Colorado has an extra game to play.
The Predators returned home after the game and will leave for Phoenix on Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday night's last regular season road game against the Coyotes. Their final game of the season will be next Saturday against the Blues.
With only two more games and the other teams around the Preds having games in had, scoreboard watching will be the order of the week for fans.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass