Originally posted on Inside Smashville  |  Last updated 3/31/12

By Seth Lake

In what was likely a meeting between two teams facing each other in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs beginning in a little over a week from now, the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings each came into Friday night’s meeting at Joe Louis Arena coming off of losses to divisional opponents. Both teams were looking to right the ship as they battle for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and the home-ice advantage that comes with it.

On Friday night, the Predators lost the faceoff battle for only the second time since Gaustad (pictured) returned to the Predators lineup

After exchanging blows throughout the first half of the contest, the Predators got on the board first with Gabriel Bourque’s 6th goal of the season midway through the second period and used the strength of goaltender Pekka Rinne and the penalty kill to fly out to a 3-0 lead early in the third period. The Wings got on the board late, but after a couple of late saves by Rinne, Predators captain Shea Weber buried his 17th goal of the season into an empty-net from center ice to seal the victory by a 4-1 final, leap-frogging the Predators over the Red Wings into fourth place in the Western Conference and securing the team’s 500th win in franchise history.

  • Predators pounce first – Despite Detroit controlling play for most of the first half of the second period, the Predators got on the board first on a play beginning with a long stretch pass out of the defensive zone from Hal Gill to Gabriel Bourque standing just outside the Detroit blue line. Bourque quickly one-touched the puck over to Jordin Tootoo supporting through the middle of the ice with speed and Tootoo skated the puck in and around the Detroit end zone before finally finding Bourque standing in a quiet area in the high slot. Without wasting any time, Bourque snapped a shot on goal through using the screen of Paul Gaustad at the front of the net to beat Wings goalie Jimmy Howard to take the 1-0 lead. The importance of scoring the first goal cannot be underscored enough in terms of seizing momentum and allowing the Predators to force their style of hockey onto their opponent. When scoring the first goal of the game, the Predators are now 32-3-4 this season.
  • Penalty kill goes to work – As expected, when the Predators took the lead, Detroit ramped up their game a notch and as a result, Nick Spaling was called for hooking just two shifts after the goal to put the Red Wings on the power play for the second time in the game. Detroit went to work, setting up screens and firing shots on net, but Rinne was up to the task. With only a few seconds remaining in the kill, Sergei Kostitsyn’s stick broke forcing him to drop it and Detroit increased their pressure again trying to isolate Kostitsyn to gain an additional advantage. Kostitsyn didn’t let up, moving his feet to stay in the shooting lanes, eventually intercepting, and then clearing a pass down the ice.  However, as he went to the bench at the end of the shift, the puck again came to him skating without a stick and he kicked it back into the Detroit end of the rink literally as his replacement hopped onto the ice causing the Predators to go immediately back onto the kill by taking a bench minor too many men on the ice penalty.
  • Rinne stones Zetterberg – With Alexander Radulov in the box serving the bench minor, the Wings got their best chance of the night late on their third power play of the night when Henrik Zetterberg appeared poised to tie the game up at 1-1 when he jumped on a loose puck off to the side of the goal with Tomas Holmstrom screening in front and Rinne down and out after the initial save.  Zetterberg quickly fired the puck towards the open net, the crowd began to stand up, and Zetterberg was left staring at the ceiling as, in desperation, Rinne reached back and got his glove up to snare the sure goal away from Zetterberg and preserve the Predators lead. The play was the top highlight of the night on the “NHL Tonight” recap show on the NHL Network and also was ranked No. 1 in ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Ten List for the night.
  • Out of the box, Predators go on prowl – With Radulov out of the box after successfully killing the remainder of the Wings advantage, the Predators went back to work at the other end with Nick Spaling, Gabriel Bourque, and Radulov buzzing around the Detroit net and using Roman Josi as their trigger man at the point. On his third shot attempt of the shift, Josi’s shot knocked to the corner where Spaling picked up the puck and wheeled into the slot on his backhand for an opportunity.  Spaling’s shot was blocked by a hoard of bodies in front and Radulov went hacking away at the pile looking to dig the puck free in the slot. As he was pulled down to the ice by Jakub Kindl, Radulov got his stick on the puck just enough to poke it free to Francis Bouillon cruising in from the point where he buried the puck into the back of the net while Howard was still staring into the scrum of bodies in front. The goal gave the Predators a 2-0 lead heading into the second intermission and put an even bigger exclamation point on Rinne’s save on Zetterberg on the earlier penalty kill.
  • Radulov reaches 100 points – Starting the third period, the Predators came out looking to slow down the Red Wings transition, forcing them back and eventually forcing them to dump the puck into the zone and give up possession. It worked to perfection about three minutes into the period as Detroit dumped the puck around the boards to Rinne behind the net. Rinne scanned the ice to see where the pressure was coming from and fired it around the boards up to Radulov standing just inside the Nashville blue line. Radulov tipped the pass over to Andrei Kostitsyn skating out of the zone with speed and Kostitsyn took the puck in and around the Detroit end of the ice in a similar fashion as Tootoo did earlier. As Kostitsyn went around the back of the Detroit net, Radulov jumped into a hole in the Red Wings defense and skated in towards the back post where Kostitsyn hit him with a beautiful pass through a defender’s skates and straight onto Radulov’s stick from where he gave the Predators a commanding 3-0 lead. Radulov was dangerous all night long giving Detroit a taste of what they’ve done to so many with Pavel Datsyuk over the years. Scoring a goal and an assist, Radulov raised his totals to 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 5 games since returning and continues to look stronger each game. The goal was Radulov’s 100th career point in the NHL.
  • With Erat and Tootoo back, lineup evolves – After one game back with little impact, Colin Wilson was a healthy scratch as Martin Erat returned to the top-six and Brandon Yip sat in favor of Jordin Tootoo coming back after missing the last game.  With a full roster of healthy bodies, Coach Trotz continues to search for the right combination of players in the lineup each night and started by re-uniting his top line of Sergei Kostitsyn and Erat alongside Mike Fisher at center and Radulov with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist as his top-six. With the bottom-six getting the better chances at even-strength, Trotz mixed things up in the third period, keeping the Fisher line together, but moving Andrei Kostitsyn up to the second line with Legwand and Radulov, and Hornqvist down to the third line with Spaling and Bourque, and finally moved Matt Halischuk down to the energy line with Gaustad and Tootoo. The move paid off with Radulov taking advantage of Kostitsyn’s pass early in the period and allowed him to roll four lines throughout the final period keeping up the pressure on Detroit and limiting their ability to fight their way back into the game.


Stops and Starts

  • For only the second time since Paul Gaustad returned to the lineup, the Predators lost the faceoff battle against Detroit 27-36 (43%). Gaustad took 24 draws, going 12-12 (50%) and Spaling went 6-3 (67%) in the dot, but Fisher, Legwand, and Erat went a combined 9-21 (42.9%) on the night. 
  • Going 3 for 3 on the night, the Predators penalty kill improved to 82.1% (23 of 28) in the 15 games since the trade deadline and have killed their last nine penalties successfully. 
  • Taking a 2-0 lead into the third period, the Predators improved to 29-2-3 this season when leading after two periods. 
  • The win was the 500th for the Nashville Predators franchise and architects David Poile and Barry Trotz. Poile is the first general manager in NHL history to win 500 games with two separate franchises (Washington) and Trotz joined elite company as the 5th coach in NHL history to win 500 games with a single team. With his 500th career win, Barry Trotz tied legendary coach Toe Blake on the all-time wins list. 
  • With his assist on Shea Weber’s empty net goal late in the third period, David Legwand moved to 498 points on his career (187 goals, 311 assists).
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