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Preds outduel Red Wings, gain ground

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Kimmo Timonen and Tomas Vokoun
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty
Kimmo Timonen congratulates goaltender Tomas Vokoun on his fourth shootout win of the season.
Predators fans finally got to see which skaters head coach Barry Trotz would use in the extra rounds of a shootout Tuesday night, as it took six rounds for Nashville to prevail 3-2 in a dramatic road victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Martin Erat scored in the sixth frame to give his club its first lead of the tie-breaking session, after both sides had exhausted their initial three shooters and were moving down their lineups as they alternated one-on-one breakaways. Erat's wrister to the top corner put the pressure on the next shooter, Brendan Shanahan, who skated to center ice as the all-time leading goal scorer against the Predators. Ironically, the Detroit winger fired wide right on his attempt, giving Nashville its fifth straight win and its third victory of the season in Joe Louis Arena.

The Predators, whose record improves to 42-19-8, have collected at least one point in each of their last 10 games and are now within eight points of the Western Conference-leading Red Wings. The clubs will play twice more in Nashville before the end of the regular season.

Scott Hartnell and Steve Sullivan scored for Nashville during regulation play, sandwiching a pair of Detroit power-play goals. The Predators relied on goaltender Tomas Vokoun to survive a rough second period in which they were outshot 18 to eight, then they turned the tables on Detroit netminder Manny Legace in the third by challenging him with 15 shots versus eight for the Wings. The 2-2 tie held through regulation play and a five-minute overtime period, bringing about the shootout.

Paul Kariya, Sullivan, Mike Sillinger and Erat all scored for the Predators in the shootout, while Vokoun made game-saving stops on Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, to keep his team alive. It was Nashville's fifth shootout victory of the season.

The Predators took an early lead in the game on Hartnell's goal 5:57 into the first period. Moments after Scott Nichol made a nice play on the defensive end to prevent a scoring chance, Nichol and Scottie Upshall worked the puck off the end boards behind Detroit's net to get the puck out front to Hartnell for a near chance. The puck came to blueliner Marek Zidlicky at the right point, and he backed parallel to the blue line to the middle of the ice before unleashing a slapshot. Hartnell, who was serving as a fantastic screen in front of Legace, deflected Zidlicky's airborne bullet into the goal to make it 1-0.

Penalties to Erat and Brendan Witt just 28 seconds apart put the Predators down two men for 1:32, resulting in a pair of goals for Detroit top-rated power play. Less than a minute into the five-on-three, Robert Lang tied the game, then Shanahan made it 2-1 when he tallied 57 seconds later, during the remaining five-on-four advantage.

Nashville got their own crack at a five-on-three power play moments later and capitalized to tie the game 2-2. Kariya, to the right of the Detroit net, fed the puck across to Sullivan at the left side for a shot that was stopped by Legace. Not to be denied, Sullivan gathered his own rebound and lifted a shot over the Red Wings goalie at 14:51. Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios snapped his stick over the crossbar in frustration, immediately putting his team down two men again while serving an unsportmanlike conduct penalty. Kariya and Sullivan nearly converted on the reverse of their last goal--this time Sullivan across to Kariya--but were stopped by a remarkable lunging save from Legace. The Red Wings committed yet another penalty within 30 seconds of Chelios', but the Predators were unable to take advantage of the opportunities to move in front on the scoreboard.

The ice tilted toward Vokoun in the second period, as the Predators had trouble getting the puck beyond the red line. Vokoun made saves on Mark Mowers and Holmstrom early on, then with just over six minutes gone, Kris Draper set up Shanahan for a prime opportunity that he fired behind Vokoun but wide of the far post. The Nashville goaltender came up with a big stop on Johan Franzen shortly thereafter, and posted an even bigger stop on Pavel Datsyuk off a two-on-one rush later in the period.

Vokoun continued to stand tall in the third, but was aided by his team's ability to generate pressure in the Red Wings' zone. Hartnell was even awarded a penalty shot at 14:18 after being hauled down from behind on a breakaway. Legace got his blocker on Hartnell's attempt and went on to turn away glorious chances by Adam Hall and Kariya in the final four minutes of regulation. Nashville's best chance for OT victory came from Dan Hamhuis, who stole the puck right in front of the Detroit net 1:43 into the four-on-four session and had two quick backhand attempts thwarted before sending a third shot sailing over the net from his forehand.

After vowing earlier in the season to mix up his player selections for shootouts, Trotz unveiled the familar trio of Zidlicky, Kariya and Sullivan as his first three snipers. Zidlicky began the shootout by sending a backhand wide left. Datsyuk followed for Detroit and executed a huge deke that pulled Vokoun way to the left and emptied the net for an easy score. Kariya's roof shot over Legace's shoulder in Round 2 was matched by Jason Williams' five-hole tally to make the shootout score 2-1 in favor of the Red Wings. Sullivan scored on a shot to the top right corner to tie it, then Vokoun stopped Zetterberg's deke to his backhand to force Round 4. Both Kimmo Timonen and Holmstrom were stopped to bring about Round 5, in which Sillinger scored on a near replay of Sullivan's shot and Steve Yzerman deked then put the puck between Vokoun's open legs. Erat emerged for Round 6 and skated toward Legace at a languid pace that belied the scorching shot he released from between the hashmarks. Again targeting the upper right corner, it rang in off the inside of the post. Shanahan's subsequent miss yielded the deciding point to Nashville for a 3-2 final score.

Notes: The Predators are 5-3 in shootouts this season. Shootout stats: Paul Kariya has now scored on four of six shootout attempts; Marek Zidlicky is one for five; Steve Sullivan is three for seven; Kimmo Timonen is zero for one; Mike Sillinger is one for five on the season and one for one as a Predator; Martin Erat is one for one, with one game-deciding goal to his credit now... Tomas Vokoun has allowed eight goals on 22 shootout attempts and is 4-3 in shootouts... Nashville is 8-0-2 over its last 10 games... The Predators are now 18-5-1 against teams within their own division... Steve Sullivan scored a goal--his 30th of the season--to extend his point streak to eight games. He has 14 points (4g-10a) in that span. He becomes the first 30-goal scorer in franchise history. He is four goals from matching his career high, set in 2000-01 with Chicago... Marek Zidlicky posted two assists for points No. 100 and 101 of his career. The two-assist performance was his 12th multi-point game of the season. He has assists in three straight games and has seven assists in his last six games... Paul Kariya assisted on Sullivan's goal to extend his point streak to three games. He has six points (3g-3a) in that span, and 16 points (7g-9a) in his last 13 games... Scottie Upshall posted an assist, his 11th of the year, in his first game after being scratched in the two previous contests. He ended the game with a +1 rating and now leads the team with a +12 for the season... Scott Hartnell netted a goal to push his point streak to five games. He has six points (2g-4a) in that span... Hartnell attempted his first career penalty shot--a miss. It was the seventh penalty shot awarded to the Predators this season, and the club has only scored on one of them (Steve Sullivan, Jan. 8 at Chicago)... Tomas Vokoun recorded his 35th win to set a new career high. His record now stands at 35-14-7 and he is ranked second among NHL goalies in wins... Jerred Smithson logged a season-high 15:41 of ice time... Nashville is now 23-5-8 in one-goal games... Darcy Hordichuk and Vern Fiddler were scratches for Nashville... Attendance at Joe Louis Arena was 20,066.

Video: Watch the game highlights (2:38)

 

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