The Detroit Red Wings scored two goals in the final 20 minutes on Saturday afternoon to defeat the Nashville Predators 4-3 at Bridgestone Arena.
With the loss, the Predators fell in regulation in consecutive games for the first time this season.
“We lost our second [consecutive regulation game] and there are things we need to do better,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think we can and will do better, but [the guys] are playing hard. We will fix those things and be ready.”
After Detroit carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, Drew Miller beat Pekka Rinne six-hole off a 2-on-1 with Tomas Jurco to put the Red Wings ahead 2-0 early in the second period.
Nashville answered back with two-straight tallies in seven minutes; first Matt Cullen at 2:33 of the second and then Mike Fisher four minutes later.
It was on a 4-on-3 power-play chance that the Predators struck for their first lead. Patiently, Nashville rotated the puck around the perimeter until Mike Ribeiro fed Shea Weber at straightaway center and the Preds Captain unleashed a rocket. The home team went to the dressing room up 3-2 following their offensive outburst in the middle frame.
The first half of the third period belonged to the Wings, however.
Detroit scored a 4-on-4 goal, with Filip Forsberg in the box for embellishment, to tie the game, and later, the NHL’s No. 1 PP unit gave Detroit the lead once again.
“I think you want to have the lead going into the third, and then you have to keep going,” Weber said. “We took penalties and went on the PK. Their power play is first in the League, so they are going to make you pay.”
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Nashville blueliner Roman Josi said. “We have been great all year in the third period. If we are down a goal or up a goal we find a way to win and we didn’t tonight. We had our chances at the end there, but just couldn’t score.”
Alexey Marchenko’s first NHL goal knotted the contest at three early in the final frame. Later, Tomas Tatar scored with the Red Wings on the power play to place the visitors ahead by a goal, 4-3.
“That’s the thing, you’ve got to stay out of the penalty box,” Preds forward Eric Nystrom said of entering the third period with a lead. “They scored a 4-on-4 goal and you don’t want to be going 4-on-4 against that team. Then the game-winner was a power-play goal.
“We had a chance to tie it up at the end on the power play, but their specialty teams came through at the right time.”
Nashville had two power-play opportunities of their own in the final three minutes of the game, but the first attempt came up empty and the second was negated by a Pekka Rinne tripping minor. The loss was the Predators first time going more than a game without claiming at least a point.
Detroit is now the final team in the NHL that is yet to suffer two-straight regulation losses.
Time to Bounce Back:
Nashville’s head coach wasn’t ready to sound any kind of alarm following his team’s 4-3 loss to the Wings. Laviolette said he liked the way his team played on Saturday afternoon, but that they just came up short against a quality team.
Are there elements of the Predators game that can be improved? Sure. But overreacting to a rare loss isn’t the answer either.
“I like the way we played today, I don’t like the result,” Laviolette said. “We lost a hockey game, but our guys showed up and competed hard...We were able to fire 60 attempts and 40 shots on net, we just didn’t get it done today. So as a team, we’ll go back and look at it and try to fix some things. It has been a tough month, but nobody is going to use that as an excuse.”
Within the dressing room, Preds players mentioned their proven ability to bounce back as reason to believe their two-game skid will be short lived.
“We won 10 games in the month of February, so that’s a pretty good month for us,” Nystrom said. “We haven’t lost two-straight games in regulation the whole season, but that was a hard fought game. I thought we played well, but they capitalized on their chances...we’re gearing up for a playoff run, so we’ve got to put this one behind us.”
“We’ve able to find ways to win no matter what we’re faced with, but that just wasn’t the case tonight,” Cullen said. “We’ll get back to work and get our game back...I think we have another level. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight, but we didn’t quite get to [our level]...We need to bounce back and we’ve done a good job of that all season long, and I think we’ll respond well.”
Matt Cullen recorded his second-straight, two-point game with a goal and an assist on Saturday. Prior to Weber’s power-play goal, Nashville’s second line of Craig Smith, Mike Fisher and Cullen had scored four-consecutive times for the Preds.
Nashville received four more points from their defensive corps on Saturday. Preds D-men have scored in 57 of the team’s 63 games and are the NHL’s highest scoring unit. Roman Josi registered two assists against the Wings to extend his lead over Predators blueliners to three points (46 overall).
The home team lost for just the second time in regulation when leading after 40 minutes of play. The Predators are now 23-2-3 when holding a lead after two periods.
Nashville earned a 10-4-1 record in the month of February, a stretch of 15 games in just 28 days. There are only 19 games remaining for the Preds in the regular season.