Photo by John Russell
Winger Paul Kariya shields the puck from ex-Predators defenseman Danny Markov. Kariya scored one of Nashville's five second-period goals Saturday night.
The Nashville Predators scored six unanswered goals--including five in the second period--en route to a 6-2 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings Saturday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
With the victory, the Predators move to 15-5-2 on the season and take a four-point lead over the Red Wings in the Central Division standings. Typically Nashville is trying to catch Detroit when the two teams meet, but this time the Predators were the ones looking to put distance between themselves and the second-place Red Wings.
"Me and [Steve] Sullivan were talking about it on the way to the rink, that this might be the first time ever when we are leading when we play against Detroit," Predators captain Kimmo Timonen said. "It was a four-point game and I think everybody knew that and I think we saw that on the ice too."
Forward Steve Sullivan posted three assists and defenseman Marek Zidlicky earned First Star honors while registering a goal and two helpers. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen pocketed his second multi-point game this season with a goal and an assist. Both of Timonen's points came on the power play, and the Predators had a breakout game with the man advantage, going 3-for-7.
"Unfortunately, or fortunately, specialty teams really depend on momentum," Sullivan said. "Power play and penalty killing. There was a huge lack of momentum on the power play and I think that we're starting to find our stride. We've had different people in different situations on the power play and I think everyone's trying to get comfortable there and realizing that the first thing is to outwork the other team. If we do so, we'll have a better chance at it. We've been doing that lately."
The Red Wings got on the scoreboard first during a highly entertaining opening 20 minutes. Henrik Zetterberg finished off a 3-on-2 rush with a wrist shot from straight away in the slot. It beat Nashville starter Chris Mason at 8:34 to make it 1-0.
Ten minutes later, the Predators took advantage of a five-on-three power-play advantage to tie the score. Steve Sullivan made a nice play in the left corner of the Detroit zone to maintain possession of the puck and get it back to Zidlicky at the left point. Zidlicky then slipped a pass over to Timonen, who squared up at the top of the right circle and fired a shot on net. The low puck squeezed through the leg pads of Red Wings starter Joey MacDonald--playing in just his third NHL contest--to make it 1-1 at 18:28.
Nashville also generated a number of close calls during the remaining power-play time, and ended up outshooting Detroit in the opening period, 11-10.
The second stanza is where Nashville blew the game open. J.P. Dumont made it 2-1 when he scored to cap a nifty 2-on-1 with Sullivan at 6:33. The play developed from a face-off in Nashville's end. The Red Wings retrieved the puck off the draw and tried to sent it up the boards to defenseman Chris Chelios at the point. Sullivan was in position to force Chelios to misplay the puck, and then the speedy winger tracked it down in the neutral zone. With Dumont to his right, Sullivan fed a pass past the lone defender and onto Dumont's stick for a shot through MacDonald's legs.
"It's tough," Sullivan said of the play. "J.P. and I both play on our off wings, so it's going to be a backhand to backhand pass. But he's an all-world player, he was able to put it in so I was pretty happy about that."
Just 1:21 later, rookie Alexander Radulov converted a nice pass from blueliner Dan Hamhuis for Nashville's third goal. Hamhuis' pass came from the left point to Radulov in the right circle, and the rookie's shot was slowed by a defenseman before fluttering over MacDonald and into the Red Wing net. At that point, Detroit's coaching staff called its 30-second timeout in an attempt to settle its troops.
Afterward, Predators head coach Barry Trotz said he thought his team rattled Detroit in the second period.
"When you go through a stretch of three or four minutes, especially a young goaltender who hasn't played a lot in the league, it's probably very difficult not to be rattled a little bit and be on your heels," Trotz said. "One thing I liked was the fact that when we got the second and third goals, we just weren't satisifed right there. We said we've got them on the ropes a little bit and [it was] a little bit of a killer instinct to say, 'Hey, keep doing it. Keep going after it. See if they can break here.' And we were able to break them in the second period."
A minute and a half later, forward Paul Kariya drew a tripping penalty against Niklas Kronwall in the neutral zone, one of many uncharacteristic penalties Detroit players took during the game. The fact that the Red Wings were playing their second game in two nights may have played a role in those infractions, according to Timonen.
"I think they were a little tired, some of them," the Predators captain said. "They played last night and when you're tired you take some stupid penalties. I'm glad our power play was working today and we've got to keep it going."
Kronwall's penalty set up Nashville's fourth chance with the man advantage and Zidlicky cashed in, scoring just 2:01 after Radulov's goal. Zidlicky received the puck on a nice play by David Legwand and had lots of open net to shoot at while MacDonald flailed in vain to make the save. With 9:55 gone in the second period, it was 4-1.
Dumont hit the crossbar on a shot from the right hashmarks shortly thereafter, and a too-many-men on the ice penalty against the Wings at 11:06 put Nashville back on the power play. This time Hartnell lit the lamp, scoring his third goal in two games on a redirection of Timonen's low shot from the top of the umbrella formation. That made it 5-1 at 12:02.
Kariya got on the board at 15:50, one-timing home his fifth goal of the season after Martin Erat made a great play along the left boards to fight through a check by Chelios.
MacDonald turned in a pair of brilliant saves in the third. One was a highlight-reel stop on a backhander by Sullivan in which MacDonald laid out on his back and flung his glove hand blindly over his head to turn the shot aside. He followed that with a nice left pad save on a partial breakaway by Erat less than a minute later.
Detroit's Robert Lang scored his club's second goal of the game on a nice solo effort, making it 6-2 with 12:21 gone in the third. The Red Wings went on to outshoot the Predators 12-6 in the final period, but the visitors were unable to put any more pucks past Mason before time expired.
NOTES: Twelve different Predators players collected points in Saturday's game, led by Marek Zidlicky (1g-2a) and Steve Sullivan (3a) with three points each... Nashville's five second-period goals were the most scored by the Preds in a period this season. They have now outscored opponents 32-11 in the second period this season... Nashville's power play scored three times Saturday and is now 5-for-15 in the last two games... The Predators' penalty killers were a perfect 3-for-3, and the special teams unit is now 86-for-96 over the last 20 games... The Predators are 6-1-2 at home and 15-2-2 in their last 19 games overall... Saturday's game was Nashville's seventh in 11 nights. The Predators went 5-1-1 in that span... Marek Zidlicky now has four points (2g-2a) in his last two games... Scott Hartnell also has four points (3g-1a) in his last two, as does Paul Kariya (1g-3a)... Alexander Radulov has scored game-winning goal in two straight games... Martin Erat has three assists over the past two games... Goaltender Chris Mason is now 4-0-1 in his last five decisions.