Photo by Frederick Breedon
Mike Sillinger checks his eye as a Predator takes exception to Brendan Shanahan after the play.
The Nashville Predators got off to a fantastic start Thursday night, scoring two power-play goals, killing off a three-on-five disadvantage and getting important saves from goaltender Tomas Vokoun in a testy first period against the Detroit Red Wings. The methodical Wings turned the tide in the second and knotted the game at 2-2 before Detroit defenseman Mathieu Schneider lit the lamp 13:29 into the third to down the Predators by a 3-2 margin before a sellout crowd at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Paul Kariya and Scott Hartnell each posted a goal and an assist for Nashville and Yanic Perreault registered two helpers in a loss that put nine points between the Central Division-leading Red Wings and the second-place Predators. Nashville is now 33-18-6 on the season and has one game remaining--a home tilt Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets--before the two-and-a-half week Olympic break begins on Sunday.
Although the Predators allowed 40 or more shots for the fourth time in five games, Thursday night's effort was markedly better than the one Wednesday night, when the Red Wings shutout the Predators 6-0 at Joe Louis Arena.
"We got embarrassed there in Detroit, basically," Hartnell said of the first game in the back-to-back home-and-home series. "It was a tough game. Tough result. The good thing about hockey is you get to do it again the next day. Fortunately we played Detroit, and in our building here we came out flying. Two-nothing lead in the first period, but [we] just let things slide. A couple of bad breakdowns, [line] changes...led to their goals."
Vokoun was tested from the drop of the puck and made key stops on Chris Chelios and Robert Lang in the opening five minutes. The Predators dodged a bullet when, during their first power play of the night, Schneider hit the right post of Nashville's net on a short-handed chance. Less than a minute later, at 5:35, Hartnell opened the scoring with an easy finish on a pretty zig-zag passing play. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky started the precise puck movement with a bee line pass from the left point to Kariya in the right circle. Kariya then sent the puck back across the ice to Perreault, skating in from left wing. In prime position for a shot, Perreault instead dished the puck across the top of the crease to Hartnell, who stood alone on the right side and slammed the the puck into the net for the 1-0 lead. The power-play tally was Nashville's first in three games.
Consecutive hooking calls against Adam Hall and Mark Eaton put the Predators down two men for a minute-and-a-half at 12:09. Vokoun turned aside two shots by defenseman Niklas Lidstrom, and Kimmo Timonen managed to clear the puck from the defensive zone with less than 10 seconds remaining on the two-man advantage. A high-sticking penalty to Schneider at 13:51 put the teams at four skaters per side for 18 seconds, then Nashville enjoyed a five-on-four power play that was cut short when Kariya netted his 19th goal of the season at 14:56. A left point shot by Steve Sullivan skimmed wide of the net, bounced off the end boards and was retrieved by Hartnell, who spun and backhanded the puck toward Detroit goalie Manny Legace. Perreault dug among a mass of players for the puck, which eventually squirted to the top of the crease for an oncoming Kariya. Nashville's leading scorer missed a first swing, but elevated his second attempt into a gaping net mouth to make it a 2-0 game.
Photo by Frederick Breedon
Forward Scottie Upshall, who was recalled from Milwaukee (AHL) earlier Thursday, battles Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios for position.
The Predators generated a number of scoring opportunities in the second period, but the Wings began noticeably controlling play with 10:00 gone. Then, at 11:44, Robert Lang cut the lead in half when his rising shot from the right wing squeezed between Vokoun's left shoulder and the right goal post. Less than two minutes later, Kris Draper tied the game when he was allowed to have two whacks at a rebound on the left edge of the crease. His second shot sent the puck by Vokoun at 13:40.
"They came back and scored a couple of goals," Perreault said. "This game could have gone either way tonight. After that we had some good chances. We just didn't score on our chances. It was a good effort but we didn't get the result tonight."
Nashville had three power plays--including a five-on-three for over a minute--in the final five minutes of the middle stanza, but the special teams units that converted on two of three manpower advantages in the first period were unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
"We set up but we tried to get a little bit too cute sometimes," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said of the power play in the second period. "What you find when you play against teams on the power play, there are tendancies that they do and it's easier to read as you go along.... Playing them back to back, they read some of those things that we did and vice versa. We kept their power play off--they got all their goals five-on-five tonight."
Detroit's final goal came at 13:29 as Schneider jumped up on the play, took a pass from captain Steve Yzerman in the slot, and had plenty of time to size up Vokoun before ripping a shot that beat the Predators goalie to the short side. The tally would stand as the eventual game winner, as Detroit put the clamps on in the waning moments and largely prevented Nashville from entering the Wings' defensive zone and mounting any serious pressure.
"We knew we needed a third goal," Sullivan said. "We said it before going into the third period, that the third goal was going to be key for us. We weren't able to get it."
Still, Trotz praised his club's effort on the heels of Wednesday night's demoralizing loss.
"I thought our guys made a great statement back to [Detroit] after, really, they dismantled us [Wednesday]," Trotz said. "We could be on life support, but we're not. That was a statement back to them that, hey, we're not going away easily. You might have beat us tonight, as they did, but we're not going away. We've got another few games with them. We'll try to stay on their track and if not, maybe we'll meet in the playoffs. That's how we have to look at it."
Notes: Nashville's power-play goals Thursday were mirror images of each other on the scoresheet: Scott Hartnell scored the first from Yanic Perreault and Paul Kariya, and Kariya scored the second from Perreault and Hartnell... With his goal and assist, Kariya registered his 17th multi-point game of the season to extend the franchise record he established on Monday in Dallas. He continues to lead the Predators in scoring this season with 56 points (19g-37a) in 57 games played. He has also tied defenseman Kimmo Timonen for the team lead in power-play points (8g-22a-30pts). Kariya has nine points (2g-7a) in his last seven games and 22 points (7g-15a) in his last 19 games... Hartnell's goal was his 10th power-play marker of the season, which matches his combined total over his first four seasons. He has 13 points (8g-5a) in his last 13 games. Thursday's game was his eighth multi-point performance of the season... Yanic Perreault's two assists against Detroit give him a total of 11 points (2g-9a) in his last seven games and 21 points (7g-14a) in his last 17 contests. It was his 10th multi-point game of 2005-06. Perreault also won 76 percent of his face-offs Thursday (16 of 21), leading Nashville to an overall win ratio of 60 percent for the game... Hartnell's first-period goal snapped Detroit goaltender Manny Legace's shutout streak at 170:41. Also, Detroit's penalty killers had not given up a power-play goal in 40 consecutive chances until Hartnell tallied against them Thursday. He was also the last player to score a power-play goal against Detroit prior to the streak. That goal came 9:20 into the second period on Jan. 23... The Predators were outshot 45-34 for the game, including a 12-6 deficit in the first period... Nashville finished the game two-for-seven on the power play, while its penalty killers blanked Detroit's top-ranked power play in six chances... Scott Nichol logged 10:27 of ice time in his first game back from a concussion suffered February 1. He posted two shots, one hit, and one blocked shot while winning three of five draws (60 percent)... Steve Sullivan logged a season-high 23:23 of ice time, registering a team-high six shots... Playing in his 300th NHL game, defenseman Mark Eaton blocked a game-high seven shots to bring his team-leading total to 137. That moves him up to third among the league's leading shot-blockers... The team has canceled Friday's practice... Scratches for Nashville were defensemen Jamie Allison and Shea Weber... Thursday night's sellout at the Gaylord Entertainment Center was fifth in the last nine home games and the seventh of the season. That is the highest number of sellouts for the Predators since 2000-01, when the GEC had 13 sellouts. Thursday's turnout was the 11th crowd of 16,000 or more this season through 28 home games.
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