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Kariya lifts Preds to OT win in Detroit

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Paul Kariya put a backhand shot past goaltender Manny Legace 35 seconds into overtime Tuesday night to give the Nashville Predators a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings and a sweep of back-to-back games at Joe Louis Arena. The Predators overcame a 1-0 deficit with a short-handed tally by Steve Sullivan midway through the second period and goaltender Tomas Vokoun was spectacular throughout, stopping 38 of 39 Detroit shots.

With the victory, Nashville improves to 31-12-6 on the season and matches the Western Conference-leading Red Wings with 68 points in the standings. The Predators have now won three in a row and are 6-0-3 in their last nine games. They are also 14-1-1 against Central Division opponents, while Detroit's record falls to 14-2-1 against divisional foes.

Tuesday night's game came quickly on the heels of Nashville's 3-2 win over Detroit Monday evening. In that contest, the Predators weathered a barrage of 41 shots and held on to earn two points. According to Nashville head coach Barry Trotz, his club wanted to make a stronger statement Tuesday and managed to do so.

"We didn't play our best game [Monday night] and we knew we were a much better team," Trotz said. "So we wanted to come in here and sort of redeem ourselves, because we got the win [Monday] but we felt we didn't play our best game. [Tuesday night] we played more up to what we are capable of and we were able to get a big win."

The Predators started strong, registering three shots over the first eight minutes while holding Detroit to zero. Nashville generated the first scoring chance of the night while skating four-on-four, as a give-and-go play with Kariya set up defenseman Marek Zidlicky on a two-on-one break with fellow blueliner Mark Eaton. Zidlicky sent the puck to Eaton on the left wing and received a return feed in the slot, where he made a move but was thwarted by Legace's goal stick.

After the Predators came up empty on their first power-play opportunity, the Red Wings--possessors of the league's No. 1 power play--were awarded a five-on-three advantage after consecutive hooking penalties to Zidlicky and Danny Markov. With six seconds remaining on the two-man advantage and Detroit's five-point perimeter closing in on the Nashville penalty killers, defenseman Mathieu Schneider fired a slapshot from the high slot that beat a screened Vokoun. Schneider's goal, his second power-play tally in two nights against Nashville, put Detroit up 1-0 with 11:32 gone in the opening period.

The Predators had a 26-second five-on-three of their own moments later, and despite good puck movement, they were unable to capitalize. A series of penalties spanning the end of the first period and the beginning of the second kept Nashville down a player and on the defensive. Kariya's hooking infraction at 7:29 of the middle stanza put Detroit on its fifth power-play of the night, during which Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg tried to come up the middle of Nashville's zone. Two Predators converged on Detroit's second-leading scorer, forcing him to send a shot wide of the mark. An attempted clear by the Predators ended up back in the middle of their zone after it took a strange bounce off the left-side glass, then Nashville defenseman Dan Hamhuis initially overskated the puck while trying to retrieve it. Hamhuis recovered and spun to send the puck off the left boards and into the neutral zone. Sullivan had already started up ice and was behind the Red Wings' last line of defense when the puck arrived ahead of him. He caught up to it at the top of the left circle and cut to the right toward the Detroit net. Sullivan showed Legace the puck just long enough to freeze the goaltender in his tracks, then kept skating wide to the right as Legace sprawled to cover the gaping right side. Sullivan roofed the puck for his 200th career goal--and fourth short-hander of the season--at 8:32, knotting the score at 1-1.

The teams traded chances and power plays for the remainder of regulation. The Predators committed nine penalties in the game--the same number as Monday night, when they gave up two power-play goals. Tuesday, though, they were able to draw an equal number of penalties against Detroit. The hustle of forward Scottie Upshall, who was recalled from Nashville's American Hockey League affiliate earlier in the day, twice forced Red Wings defensemen into taking penalties, and Vernon Fiddler and Scott Hartnell each lured Schneider into a two-minute trip to the box.

"In the second half of the game, I really felt we had more legs than they did," Trotz said. "I thought we skated better. From that they took a few more penalties and we were able to get some chances there. But we didn't generate much on the power play [Tuesday]. Unfortunately we had only two power plays out of the seven that we really generated anything."

On the other side of the special teams coin, Nashville's penalty-killing units and goaltender Tomas Vokoun did yeoman's work to largely silence Detroit's top-ranked power-play--which entered the game clicking at an efficiency rate of 25 percent. The Predators limited the Wings to the lone five-on-three goal in seven opportunities with a manpower advantage. "I thought our penalty killing was real good," Trotz said. "Everybody really contributed tonight. We got another strong effort from Tomas."

With about five minutes remaining in regulation and Detroit's Robert Lang in the box for interference, a point shot by Zidlicky and good positioning by Hartnell in front nearly resulted in a second goal for the Predators. It was Detroit, however, who mounted the most pressure in the final minutes of the third: Niklas Lidstrom rifled a shot off Vokoun's helmet; Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson combined for a quality chance; Lang tried to net the game winner in the waning seconds; and Brendan Shanahan, the all-time leading goal-scorer against the Predators, fired wide before the buzzer.

With half a minute gone in the ensuing four-on-four overtime session, Zidlicky gathered the puck deep in the right corner of his own zone, turned and lobbed a puck well over the red line. The pass was perfectly weighted for Kariya, who was charging up the left wing with a step on the Detroit defense. Nashville's leading scorer swooped up the puck in the left face-off circle and cut to his right toward Legace. Angling across the top of the goal crease, the left-shooting Kariya moved the puck to his backhand and shoveled it into the upper right corner, past Legace's groping trapper. The goal, Kariya's 17th of the season, ended the sudden-death overtime period at the 35-second mark.

For making it to the OT session, Detroit gained one point in the league standings. Nashville, meanwhile, earned two points for the win. Had the Predators won in regulation, they would have leapfrogged the Wings to take sole possession of first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference. As it played out, Nashville's two points and Detroit's one leave the clubs tied in the standings.

"We came in here and obviously we wanted to do well in here," Trotz said. "It's sort of a mission accomplished in a lot of ways. Obviously we'd like to beat them in regulation so there was some separation, but hey, we were behind them when we came into their building and now we're tied with them, so that's an accomplishment."

Next the Predators travel to Minnesota for a showdown with the Wild on Thursday night. Nashville lost 4-2 in their last visit to the Xcel Energy Center, but beat Minnesota at the Gaylord Entertainment to force a split of the first two games of the four-game season series. Thursday's game, which begins at 7 p.m. CT, will not be televised locally but will be broadcast on 104.5 FM The Zone.

Notes: Steve Sullivan's scored the 200th goal of his NHL career Tuesday in Detroit. He has points in eight of his last nine games (7g-3a-10pts). The goal was his fourth short-handed goal of the season, which leads the Predators and ties him for the league lead in that category. It is Nashville's seventh short-handed goal of the season... Kimmo Timonen registered an assist against Detroit to extend his point streak to six games (2g-6a-8pts)... With his goal Tuesday, Paul Kariya now has three goals in his last three games and points in nine of his last 11 games (5g-8a-12pts). Tuesday's game-winner was his second of the season... Marek Zidlicky posted an assist and has 5 points (1g-4a) in his last four games... Dan Hamhuis' assist on Sullivan's goal was his first short-handed point of the season... Tomas Vokoun posted his 25th win of the season and is now tied for second among NHL goaltenders in wins... The Predators are: 19-2-6 in one-goal games; 17-8-6 when outshot by their opponent; 16-5-2 when their opponent scores first; 5-6 in overtime games; 6-2-1 when tied after two periods... Yanic Perreault was held scoreless Tuesday and had his points streak snapped at eight games, which ties the franchise record set by Cliff Ronning in 2001... With his goal against Detroit on Monday, Scott Hartnell tied the Predators record for the most game-winning goals in a season (6)... Scottie Upshall logged 8:43 of ice time and registered one shot in his first game since being recalled from Milwaukee (AHL) Tuesday. He primarily skated on a line with Paul Kariya and Yanic Perreault... Martin Erat, Darcy Hordichuk and Jamie Allison were scratches for Nashville on Tuesday... Attendance at Joe Louis Arena was 20,066--a sellout.

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