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Red Wings Catch the Predators Off Guard, Win 3-1

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Luke Witkowski’s first NHL goal and Mrazek’s solid goaltending help Detroit pick up two points.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit journeys to Smashville to take on the Predators in a Saturday night matchup.

It’s a good thing that Saturday night’s all right for fighting because Luke Witkowski is in the lineup, replacing Mike Green, who is day-to-day. He’s going to be paired with Kronwall, which is a defense pairing that makes me feel like I must have done something really bad in a past life to have to watch.

First Period

Mrazek makes the first save off a shot from Matt Irwin just over a minute in.

It’s going to be interesting to see how much ice time Witkowski gets. The first shift his pass led to a giveaway, then followed that up by attempting a breakout pass that was to a Nashville player.

Through the first four minutes, the breakout has not looked good, to put it mildly.

It’s snowing here, but I just stepped outside for a moment to see if I could see any flying swine because LUKE WITKOWSKI SCORED! ON A BREAKAWAY.

If you didn’t get to see the game, I swear to you that both those things are true. A collision led to a loose puck, and Luke Witkowski made a nice read to get ahead of the play. He was pretty much alone from the blueline, and he made a nice move to put it by Juuse Saros on the backhand.

1-0 Detroit.

I was still getting over the fact that Witkowski scored when Danny DeKeyser took a penalty. Nashville has a tremendous power play, so Detroit has to keep penalties to a minimum. They kill this one off with only a few scary looks for the Predators.

On the shift following the penalty kill, Detroit had a nice chance, but Jensen couldn’t put it past Saros after a series of quick passes.

GOAL!

Just as everyone predicted, Detroit jumps out to an early two goal lead. Jensen throws a wrist shot at the net, and Nyquist deflects it in.

Subban and Bertuzzi get offsetting minors for roughing and slashing, respectively. I’ll take that tradeoff all day. They’re chirping each other from the box, so maybe Bert will be able to take Subban off for five minutes, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Larkin nearly gets a nice crossing pass to Tatar on the 4 on 4, but Jarnkrok makes a nice play to deflect it over the glass.

Forsberg completely walks Witkowski, who is forced to take a penalty as the Predators forward drives to the net.

Josi hit the post on a one-timer. The Predators are able to get some good looks through quick puck movement, but the Detroit PK is doing a good job of being aggressive.

Behind the play, Subban cross-checked Athanasiou in the back pretty hard, but nothing came of it.

The first period ends with Detroit up 2-0. I still can’t believe Witkowski scored.

Second Period

Nashville comes out flying in the second period, keeping the puck in Detroit’s zone for an extended period and throwing the puck on net repeatedly. Detroit weathers the storm, and Nashville is still scoreless.

Larkin gave the puck away, and Nashville nearly made Detroit pay, but the Wings dodged a bullet.

Detroit follows that with an extended period of time in the Nashville zone, with Nielsen and Daley making good plays to keep the pressure on.

Coming back from commercial, Trevor Thompson talked to Luke Witkowski’s father about his son’s first NHL goal. You could tell how happy his teammates were for him, so that’s a nice story to come out of this game, regardless of what happens the rest of the way.

Witkowski nearly gets his second NHL goal by hitting a pass from Nyquist out of mid-air. Witkowski found himself alone right in front of Saros, and if Goose hadn’t fallen down, he could have had a tap-in.

Nashville is trying to get under the Detroit players’ skin with a lot of post-whistle stuff. The Preds look to be frustrated, which makes sense. They should be because they haven’t gotten too many great scoring chances, and Mrazek has done well with the shots he has seen.

Subban gets tied up with Glendening behind the net after a whistle, and Bertuzzi attempts to continue their conversation from earlier in the game, but nothing comes of it. Still something to keep an eye on.

Nashville nearly gets on the board with Salomaki getting a chance on a rebound off of a shot that Mrazek couldn’t hold onto.

Detroit is really starting to hang Mrazek out to dry. Daley takes a penalty when he gives Johansen a shove in the small of the back, causing him to go awkwardly into the boards.

Detroit kills the penalty. They’ve done a really nice job on the PK tonight, but continuing to tempt fate is obviously a bad idea.

Athanasiou had an eventful shift. He first was too soft on the puck on a clear and didn’t get the puck out of the zone. The puck eventually got out, and Athanasiou beat Subban to it, leading to a semi-breakaway. He wasn’t clear enough to have multiple options, and was forced to go to the backhand, which Saros was ready for.

Detroit will go to the power play as Sissons takes a penalty for tripping. Larkin blew by a defender on the delayed penalty, and nearly scored. Detroit doesn’t score, but they have the lion’s share of the two minute power play left to start the third.

Third Period

Detroit has 1:40 of the power play to start the period. Ellis is the latest recipient of the Frk one-timer as he successfully blocks it, but looks to be stung. Detroit doesn’t get another shot on the power play until the last few seconds.

Ericsson thought he was Nick Jensen for a second, as he pushed Bitetto into Mrazek, but fortunately Mrazek is OK.

A goalmouth scramble nearly leads to a third goal for Detroit, but Helm then Nielsen couldn’t get enough on it to put it home.

Mrazek’s been really solid tonight. He hasn’t had a ton to do, but Nashville’s shots have come in flurries, and he’s stayed calm rather than overplaying shots like he does in games he struggles in.

Larkin continues to have himself a great game, as he beats Ellis and cuts to the net yet again. He couldn’t get the shot off early enough, but he continues to go right at defenders.

Detroit takes a bench minor for too many men on the ice, and it was really close. The player leaving the ice almost got off in time, and old man hockey will definitely make a joke about that phrasing.

Craig Smith takes a tremendous pass from Subban and goes in alone on Mrazek. He beats the goalie to make it 2-1. Mrazek didn’t have too much of a chance on that one, and I’m wondering if Detroit will lose in regulation or overtime.

Tatar draws a penalty, and this will really help Detroit run out the clock. Turris takes out Tatar, then Detroit plays keepaway for a while before Nashville can touch the puck. If Nashville can kill the penalty, they’ll have 13 seconds to get the tying goal.

Oh come on. Nick Bonino takes an absolute dive to draw a holding call on Kronwall. Absolute garbage.

Thankfully, it looks like it’s not going to impact the game as Darren Helm scores an empty net goal from his own zone to make the score 3-1.

And that’s the way the game ends. Detroit takes two points in Nashville, which was certainly not what I was expecting, but it was nice to see.