NASHVILLE – Predators general manager David Poile admitted he was taking a chance when he sent second- and fifth-round picks to Montreal for under-performing Andrei Kostitsyn at the trade deadline.
But it was a calculated move. The hope was that an enhanced role and reuniting him with his brother Sergei, who also had swooned with the Canadiens but then flourished in Nashville, would spark the three-time 20-goal scorer back to form.
After Andrei scored two power-plays goals at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday on set-ups from Sergei, the move is looking good for Nashville's playoff run. With the 3-2 win, the Predators moved to within four points of the Red Wings for second place in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference.
Andrei Kostitsyn has 3 goals and 3 assists in five games since arriving in Nashville.
"I'm happy to be here because I have good ice time, I have my brother," said Andrei. "I want to keep going and work hard and do well."
Andrei scored his second power-play goal at 4:34 of the third period on a backdoor pass from Sergei, as Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Sergei made a smart play, waiting for a defenseman to turn his head before passing the puck.
Nashville, which entered with the League's No. 2 power play, went ahead 2-1 at 8:01 on Andrei's first power-play goal. Trotz doesn't pair the brothers on a forward line at even strength – and won't let them room together on the road -- but he does play them together on the team's second power-play unit.
They hooked up in the first period with Sergei, high along the right boards, passing in front to Andrei, who spun around after receiving the puck and used the length of his stick to put it around Joey MacDonald at 11:59.
With the two assists, Sergei has 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in his last 30 games. Trotz said he likes how the left wing has played and thought playing the Belarusian brothers together on the power play would help Andrei's transition to the team.
"Obviously, they have some chemistry playing in the past," said Predators center David Legwand, who had three assists, including the secondary assist on both of Andrei's goals. "(Andrei) does a good job of making plays and creating things out there. That's a huge thing. When he gets open, he's going to bury pucks and that's big."
The Predators, who won their second straight and improved to 13-2-2 at home since Jan. 1, hold a game in hand over a Red Wings' team that is beset by injuries and starting to falter. The Red Wings fell to 3-5-1 in their last nine – all without leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk out of the lineup with a knee injury.
Other regulars out of Detroit's lineup on Saturday included goalie Jimmy Howard, defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson and forward Todd Bertuzzi. Detroit has only nine goals in its last four games.
After Detroit's morning skate on Saturday, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock looked at the positive of eventually getting those players back but also voiced concern about not wanting to lose ground.
"If you can go through this what it does, you think about Howard, Datsyuk and Lidstrom, really that's our top goalie, our top (defenseman) and our top forward," he said. "They've been freshened up. Anyone who's been involved knows what a grind it can be and so that can be a real positive thing. At the same time, though, you don't want to lose ground. You want to keep getting better."
Asked after the game if he were concerned about losing ground to Nashville, Babcock grew combative then said, "No, not really. I think we're going to be just fine, to tell you the truth."
Justin Abdelkader, returning the lineup one night after sitting out with an illness, scored off his own rebound, falling to the ice, while fighting off Preds defenseman Ryan Suter to pull Detroit to 3-2 with 5:25 left in regulation.
A key sequence came at the end of the second period when Nashville had to kill overlapping penalties. First, Shea Weber took an interference penalty after a turnover in his defensive zone went right to a Detroit's Jiri Hudler. With 10 seconds left in the penalty, Francis Bouillon went to the box for hooking Tomas Holmstrom in front the net.
Rinne, who made 35 saves to earn his League-best 38th win, had to make a big glove save on Henrik Zetterberg's wrist shot from 22 feet to kill the second penalty.
With Detroit having played the night before at home, Nashville seemed to take advantage of tired Red Wings' legs early, earning two power plays in the first 11 minutes. Kostitsyn converted the second. Nashville was 2-for-4 on the power play, Detroit 0-for-4.
Detroit outshot Nashville, 37-20, including 18-6 in the third period. On one of Detroit's best chances, Valtteri Filppula was in clean on the right side at close range but hit the netting on the side of the goal.
"I thought we did a good job," Babcock said. "I didn't like the two goals they got on the power play. They made nice plays, but we had bad sticks on both of them, to me. Those are tough goals to give up. Other than that, we controlled a lot of the hockey game. .. their goaltender was good. We didn't help ours on those two goals. Those were freebees."
In the first period, Nashville gave up a goal 13 seconds after it scored. In their previous game, the Preds had given one up 12 seconds after they scored.
Drew Miller scored for the Red Wings, skating out from behind the net, turning and throwing one on goal that slipped through Rinne at 7:43.
Patric Hornqvist had put up Nashville 1-0, converting a 2-on-1 pass from Legwand, who had stripped Detroit's Gustav Nyquist of the puck in the neutral zone.