NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While the Red Wings wrapped up a tremendously successful six-game (4-1-1) road trip on Saturday, Brendan Smith was just glad to finish – intact.
The Wings’ defenseman was the victim of dirty plays committed by San Jose’s Logan Couture and Nashville’s James Neal.
First, Smith landed hard on the back of his head when he was slew-footed by Couture Thursday in San Jose. Led off the ice by a Wings’ trainer, Smith went through the NHL protocol for concussion evaluation. He did not return to the game.
Then Saturday afternoon in Nashville, Smith absorbed a vicious butt-end to the side of his face administered by Neal as he tried to gain entry into the offensive zone. Neal has a shady reputation for questionable on-ice behavior. He received a two-minute high-sticking penalty with 10:18 left in the third period.
Smith, who scored the first goal in the Wings’ 4-3 win over the Predators, stayed in the game.
But afterward, he was quite outspoken about both incidents.
“I personally didn’t like the play (Thursday),” Smith said. “I thought for me I can’t defend myself. That’s the biggest thing. When somebody can’t defend themselves, that’s when there’s an issue. Obviously it was intentional. You got to look at those things where, was it intentional? Yes or no? You got to have somebody be the judge of that. And can they protect themselves? Is it an attempt to injure? If they put those in and it comes out to be conclusive it should be a fine or suspension.
“There’s another thing, like tonight, even with Neal, you got to look at those things and see what happens. I haven’t seen (a replay) but I felt he knew I was there and that was kind of intentional (I think he meant Neal elbow to chin/head during his high-sticking penalty at 9:42 of the third). You got to look at those kind of things. You put those in the back of your head and I think that’s why he (Couture) got fined.”
The NHL wasted little time in levying a $5,000 fine – the most permitted under the Collective Bargaining Agreement – on Couture for the illegal play that occurred at 16:03 of the third period. At the time, both players received coincidental two-minute minors – Couture for tripping, Smith for hooking.
Smith was fortunate that he didn’t suffer more serious injury on either play, especially Thursday when he struck the back of his head on the ice.
“Yeah that’s the thing, I couldn’t put any hand down to protect myself and I did land pretty hard on my head and that’s why I had to go off and get an assessment,” Smith said. “That makes me upset because there’s a chance I could be out for a long time. You’ve seen it with (Johan Franzen). He hasn’t been back since then. Those head injuries are dangerous. At least the league saw it as it was and we’ll keep going. The game is so quick. Everybody is trying to battle for space. Things like that we got to crack down on.”
Smith was a game-time decision Saturday as moments before the slew-foot, he was hit in the right hand by Brent Burns’ shot from the point.
“Yeah, it was like everything combined,” Smith said. “But the shot was the one that hit me.”
Center - DET
Goals: 22 | Assists: 29 | Pts: 51
Shots: 131 | +/-: 11
For the last two games the Red Wings have overcome third-period deficits to win in regulation.
On Thursday in San Jose, the Wings trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes before Pavel Datsyuk tied the game at 13:32 and Luke Glendening produced the game-winner at 18:45. The Red Wings followed that up Saturday with another comeback when Alexey Marchenko scored his first NHL goal and Tomas Tatar fired a backhand shot off a Predators’ defenseman for the game-winner.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Wings last mounted third-period comebacks to win consecutive games on Dec. 9 and 11, 1993 when they posted home wins over St. Louis (3-2) and San Jose (5-3). It’s been more than 31 years since it happened in consecutive road games – Jan. 28 and Feb. 5, 1984 – with comebacks over the New York Islanders (4-3) and Boston (6-5).
Overall, the Wings have overcome third-period deficits to record at least one point in five of their past eight games, including four times on their six-game road trip.
“You never know when you’re down by a one, every team should be aware because we’re going to be coming and we don’t stop,” Smith said. “If we just keep playing our system, I think the teams that start pressing or getting outside of their element, that’s when they start making mistakes and the game becomes out of reach for them. We just keep at it, we chip away in the third, it’s been working for us. I guess that’s where your resiliency comes from.”
Goalie - DET
GAA: 2.12 | Sv%: .924
Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson
made a season-high 37 saves Saturday, which is three shy of his career high. He now has a 3-2-1 record with a 2.12 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in six appearances this season. … Fourth-line forward Drew Miller
produced a goal and an assist in Saturday’s win. It was his 12th multi-point game of his career, but the first of this season. … Defenseman Niklas Kronwall
collected two assists against the Predators for his 64th career multi-point game of his career, the 10th this season. He has a goal and five assists in the past five games.