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Predators lose ground in Detroit

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Scott Hartnell in front of the Detroit net.
Photo: DRW/Dave Reginek
Predators forward Scott Hartnell holds his ground in front of Detroit goaltender Manny Legace despite the efforts of Red Wings center Jason Williams to move him.
A goal by the Detroit Red Wings 1:23 into an evenly matched first period proved to be enough for the Western Conference leaders Wednesday night, as they defeated the Nashville Predators 6-0 at Joe Louis Arena. The game was the first of a back-to-back home-and-home series that will conclude Thursday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

Detroit cemented the win with three goals in the second period, netting the first two in a 1:22 span and outshooting the Predators 20-2 in the period. Nashville showed a bit more jump after starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun was benched in favor of Chris Mason at the beginning of the third, but the visitors were unable to ruin Detroit goalie Manny Legace's shutout despite outshooting the Wings by an 11-8 margin in the final period.

The loss marks only the second time the Predators have been held scoreless this season, and drops Nashville's record to 33-17-6 on the season. The Predators are now seven points behind the Red Wings in the Central Division standings with two games remaining before the Olympic break begins Sunday. Wednesday's game was the fourth of eight season meetings between the clubs.

"Detroit played excellent," Predators goaltending coach Mitch Korn said. "They really shut off our lanes. They moved the puck great and they kept it away from us. We only had two power play chances."

Red Wings defenseman Niklas Lidstrom opened the scoring early in the first when he fired a shot from the left point that sailed past Vokoun, who was screened on the play by Brendan Shanahan. Moments later, Vokoun made a big stop on Henrik Zetterberg as he cut in from the right wing for a point-blank chance, and Nashville's first line of Paul Kariya, Yanic Perreault and Martin Erat and the third line of Scott Hartnell, Greg Johnson and Adam Hall responded with strong shifts.

Midway through the opening period, Predators forward Vernon Fiddler--in the lineup in place of injured forward Scott Walker--was wedged into the boards by Red Wings' blueliner Chris Chelios and left the ice with the assistance of team trainer Dan Redmond. Fiddler did not return.

Nashville posted seven shots to Detroit's eight in the penalty-free opening period, and the Predators' first and third lines again generated chances in the latter half of the first. A makeshift line of Hartnell, Hall, and Jerred Smithson created a beautiful opportunity 1:10 into the second period as they each touched the puck on a rush before setting up defenseman Marek Zidlicky for a shot in the slot that was deflected to the corner by Chelios. Vokoun made two saves on Shanahan with over five minutes gone, but the game changed shortly thereafter when coincidental penalties to Zidlicky and Kris Draper brought about two minutes of four-on-four hockey. With the teams short-handed, Shanahan capitalized on a Predators turnover at their own blue line and placed a sniper's shot into the upper left corner off a two-on-one break. That made the score 2-0 at 7:14, and Mathieu Schneider's deposit of a Zetterberg drop pass less than two minutes later increased the margin to 3-0.

Detroit began piling on the shots, and a miscue by Nashville nearly 14:00 into the second period led to an odd man rush for Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Predators defenseman Mark Eaton made a fantastic diving play to foil the chance, but not before the Wings had drawn a hooking penalty on Danny Markov. It took the league's No. 1 power play less than a minute to add a fourth goal, as Zetterberg gloved down a rebound and banged the puck into an open side of the net.

Vokoun finished the period, but was replaced by Mason at the start of the third. "Tomas has been very busy in recent games," Korn said. "He's had an average of 40 shots even dating back to the two games we played in Detroit [on Jan. 23 and 24]."

The switch sparked the Predators in the early going. Erat had a good chance 35 seconds in, and Kariya drew a holding penalty on Chris Chelios seven seconds later. Nashville was unable to capitalize on a number of opportunities generated during the man advantage, however, and the Predators' play leveled out as the period wore on. Goals by Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk in the last six minutes resulted in the game's 6-0 final.

Nashville will look to exact revenge Thursday night when it hosts Detroit for a 7 p.m. game at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Less than 200 tickets remain for the contest. To order, call (615) 770-PUCK, order online, or visit any Ticketmaster outlet.

The Predators will have to quickly put Wednesday's performance behind them, but Korn suggests the team can use it to fuel their resolve. "It's a new game," Korn said of Thursday's rematch. "It's a new day. And hopefully [Wednesday's loss] becomes a motivator and not a deflator."

Notes: The Predators were shutout for only the second time of the season Wednesday. The first came on Jan. 3 at Colorado... Detroit's six goals set Nashville's largest margin of defeat this season... The Predators are now 15-3-1 against Central Division opponents... Nashville committed only two penalties Wednesday... The Predators outshot the Red Wings 11-8 in the third period but were outshot for the game by a 36-20 margin... Starter Tomas Vokoun saved 24 of 28 shots through two periods, and Chris Mason stopped six of eight shots in relief. Vokoun is credited with the loss and his record now stands at 27-13-5 this season... Yanic Perreault logged a season-high 19:43 of ice time Wednesday, registering one shot, two hits and a -2 rating in the game. He was also the only Predator to end the night above 50% on face-off win percentage (nine of 14, 64%)... Scott Walker, Jamie Allison and Shea Weber were scratches for Nashville Wednesday... A sellout crowd of 20,066 was in attendance at Joe Louis Arena.

Video: Watch the game highlights (1:26)

Game Stats:
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