The Nashville Predators stepped onto the ice Monday night with a one-goal lead, and three periods later, they left the rink with one as well. Predators forwards Steve Sullivan and Scott Hartnell each netted goals in the game's first 15 minutes, then goaltender Tomas Vokoun repelled a shelling for the remainder of the match to secure an important 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
"We were really good early and we skated," Predators associate coach Brent Peterson said. "Then we sort of sat back when we had a goal lead. Tomas was great again tonight. We got outshot badly and outchanced, but we found a way to get a win."
With the victory, the Predators not only break the 30-win mark with a 30-12-6 overall record, but they draw within one point of the Western Conference-leading Red Wings in the standings. The two teams will square off again at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday.
Nashville began the game leading 1-0 as a result of the postponed Nov. 21 Predators-Red Wings contest, which was halted 12:30 into the first period when Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer had a medical emergency on his team's bench. Predators center Greg Johnson had opened the scoring just over a minute earlier, so the margin was carried over to Monday night's full 60-minute make-up game. At 0:00 of Monday's contest, Johnson was officially credited with his goal, and Scottie Upshall--who is now playing for the Predators' top minor-league affiliate in Milwaukee--and Ryan Suter received their delayed assists.
A rash of Nashville penalties allowed Detroit's No. 1-ranked power play to skate for a total of 14:50, and the result was a lopsided shot counter that favored the Wings 41-14. Both of Detroit's goals came with the man advantage, knotting the game at 2-2 at the 5:15 mark of the second period.
"We took nine penalties and we just can't do that against the Detroit Red Wings," Peterson said. "They're not only good on the power play but they get their game going with the momentum of the power plays and they score on them.
"Anytime you're going to take nine against Detroit you're in a lot of trouble," he added. "The [penalty killers] worked hard, blocked some shots and tried to help Tomas out. And he was big when they weren't there. But like I said, if you only give them two or three you might kill them off, but you're not going to kill off nine every night--especially against the top power play in the league. It's not just the discipline. We've got to move our feet and not take the stick penalties and the hooking and the holding. We've got to do a better job of that all around."
Early in the game, Nashville built upon its initial 1-0 lead with a breakaway tally by Sullivan. The play began with Detroit forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Brendan Shanahan and Henrik Zetterberg streaking into the Predators' zone. Shanahan just missed connecting with Zetterberg for a good chance but got a quality shot on Vokoun after tracking down his own rebound. Vokoun made the stop and defenseman Danny Markov corralled the puck in the slot, then turned to head up the ice. He quickly spotted Sullivan breaking the other way and hit him with a pass at the red line that sent him in alone on Red Wings goaltender Manny Legace. Sullivan's shot beat the Detroit netminder between the legs at 3:56 of the first to give Nashville a 2-0 cushion.
The Red Wings erased that lead early in the second with their two power-play goals. The first came from Pavel Datsyuk 40 seconds into the middle frame. He deposited a rebound after Robert Lang hit the post with a shot during a flurry around Nashville's net. Less than five minutes later, during a four-on-three advantage, the Wings tied the game with a one-timer by Mathieu Schneider.
The Predators, who themselves spent 12:25 on the power play, took a 3-2 lead 9:30 into the second period while Detroit's Andreas Lilja sat in the penalty box for hauling down Paul Kariya. Hartnell, positioned in front of Legace, skillfully deflected an airborne point shot from Kimmo Timonen past the Red Wings goaltender for his 16th goal of the year; it became the eventual game winner.
"Great goal," Peterson said. "A shot from the point, a great deflection and the game winner. It was good after they had two [goals] and a lot of chances in the second. We found a way to get the winner and it was a good goal. We didn't play our best. We found a way to get points. Now the biggest thing is how we rebound and come out and play [Tuesday night]. We need to play a little bit better team game [Tuesday]."
Vokoun, meanwhile, turned away 39 of Detroit's 41 shots--including a number of key saves against Kris Draper and a 19-shot barrage in the third--to earn his 24th win. "He found a way to keep the door shut," Peterson said.
The two clubs will return for the second of back-to-back games 6:30 p.m. CT Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. Tuesday's showdown, the third of eight scheduled meetings between Detroit and Nashville this season, will be televised locally on FSN South and broadcast on 104.5 FM The Zone.
Notes: Nashville's victory Monday night was only its third at Joe Louis Arena in 18 games (3-11-4). The Red Wings won the last two regular season games in Detroit in 2003-04 and took all three home games during the first-round playoff series in April 2004... The Predators have earned points in each of their last eight games, going 5-0-3 in that span... Nashville is now 13-1-1 against Central Division opponents... Yanic Perreault posted an assist against Detroit to extend his point-scoring streak to eight games, which ties the franchise record for longest points streak (Cliff Ronning, 4g-8a-12pts, 11/8-11/23/01). Perreault has registered 5 goals and 5 assists since the streak began on Jan. 8 in Chicago. He also won 13 of 16 face-offs (81%) Monday night... Steve Sullivan, who scored his team-leading 24th goal against the Red Wings Monday, has points in 7 of his last 8 games (6g-3a-9pts). He is one goal away from his 200th in the NHL... With his game-winning goal Monday, Scott Hartnell has three goals and four points in his last two games. He leads the Predators with six game-winning goals... Defenseman Kimmo Timonen assisted on Hartnell's goal and has points in five straight games (2g-5a-7pts). He has two power-play assists in two games against Detroit this season and leads the Predators with 24 power-play assists... This season, Nashville is 12-0-3 with Scott Walker in the lineup... The Predators are 19-0-3 when leading after two periods. They are 18-2-6 in one-goal games and 16-5-2 when their opponent scores first... Center Scott Nichol returned to the lineup Monday after missing 31 games with a broken foot. He registered two hits and one shot in 9:38 of ice time, and broke up a threatening two-on-one chance late in the third by closing on Robert Lang... Jeremy Stevenson and Jamie Allison were scratches for Nashville... Attendance at Joe Louis Arena was 20,066--a sellout.
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