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Howard Shines as Wings Beat Preds 3-2

Goalie steals show early to make way for late game push

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After the loss in Chicago on Sunday the Red Wings traveled to Nashville for tonight’s contest with the Predators. The big news on the day entering the game was the update that Dennis Cholowski was going to find himself a healthy scratch this evening with the return of Trevor Daley to the lineup. While Daley was a welcome return to the lineup, there was more than a few fans upset (including yours truly) the Cholowski was the one forced out of the lineup.

One other notable lineup update for this game was that, at least to begin the game, Mantha would find himself on a line with Larkin and Nyquist rather than Abdelkader who had previously been holding down the spot during Bertuzzi’s absence. Blashill was obviously looking to snap the winger from his current slump and there’s no better duo to achieve that than Larkin and Nyquist.

Returning to the net tonight was Jimmy Howard after sitting out Sunday’s game against Chicago. For the Predators it was a familiar foe with Pekka Rinne starting between the pipes. The 36 year old Rinne has continued to put up steady numbers this season for the Predators if not spectacular.

The Red Wings were going to have to bring their ‘A’ game in this one to have a chance with the contending Predators. Could they do enough to beat their old division rivals?

1st Period

The Wings opened the game with a trio of Larkin with Nyquist and Mantha. The group generated some good pressure on the first shift with some sustained zone time in the offensive zone. But the first good chance of the game went to Nashville when Hartman made a spinning backhand pass from the corner to Weber who was crashing towards the Wings net from his point position. Howard was able to get his pad on the attempt though. Nashville had a couple shifts with some pressure of their own following the chance. The next opportunity came on a Green giveaway right to the stick of Craig Smith in the slot but Howard came up with a big time save to bail his defenseman out. Not long later Howard had to be on top of his game again when Forsberg made a power move from the left side trying to stretch Howard out but Jimmy made a good pad save and even stretched his arm out to take away the bottom of the net on the follow up rebound attempt that was knocked wide.

After Howard kept them in it early, the Wings got their first opportunity to start the scoring. Athanasiou won a race to a loose puck at the Predators blue line and sped away for a breakaway attempt. Athanasiou made a quick couple dekes before going to his backhand side and attempting to beat Rinne five-hole but the goaltender was able to steer the try away. Nashville continued to carry the play following the AA chance with a few shots from in close on Howard including one off the stick of Forsberg after a nifty move to give himself some space in the slot area. Athanasiou then used his speed to get another chance at a loose puck on his next shift but this time Rinne was able to leave his crease and knock the puck away before Athanasiou could get there. It was then the Predators turn once again as Howard had to absorb a couple attempts from Fiala in close but the netminder was in position again, and Fiala whiffed on a few swings at the rebound.

After a good shift by the Larkin line to get the ice tilted against Nashville for a few moments, the Glendening line took to the ice. After a good forecheck series, the puck was worked back to Jensen at the point who promptly put a shot on net with heavy traffic in front. The shot appeared to redirect off of the shaft of Glendening’s stick and caught a piece of Rinne’s apparel before finding the back of the net, 1-0 Red Wings!

Nashville followed with another flurry, and forced Howard to make a tricky save on a redirected puck that bounced towards his right pad. On the ensuing rebound Nielsen lost inside position on his man and was forced to take a hooking penalty to take away the chance. The best chances for Nashville on the powerplay came from the stick of the recently acquired Brian Boyle with a redirection in front and another attempt to move the puck through his legs in the crease area to create an opening. But Detroit held on and killed the remainder of the penalty. The period came to a close shortly after the penalty expired and the Wings had to be happy they were lucky enough to take a 1-0 lead into the break.

Nashville outshot the Wings 19-9 in the period. Not only did they pile the shots on Howard but the Predators were dangerous throughout generating several noteworthy chances in the period. The Wings certainly had Howard to thank for the early lead as he was outstanding in the period in which the Wings had maybe 3 or 4 notable shots of their own.

2nd Period

The Wings opened the period with a Larkin holding penalty less than a minute into the period. The call seemed a bit weak especially considering a high stick was missed on DeKeyser shortly before, and then Larkin was piled on by the player that he was then called for subsequently holding. To make matters worse, with 0:53 remaining in the Larkin penalty De la Rose was called for using a broken stick. But the replay shows the stick seemed to fall apart when he attempted to clear the puck and them immediately dropped it, so questionable again at best. But fortunately the Wings were able to kill off both penalties without giving up a good look to the Predators. A later replay showed De la Rose’s stick may have indeed been broken on a preceding shot block.

Just as the De la Rose penalty was expiring Abdelkader was hauled down in front of Rinne giving Detroit their first look on the powerplay. The Wings got a couple good chances early including a Mantha point blast through a Vanek screen and then a series of great Rinne saves off a Vanek redirect followed by a Mantha rebound attempt. After the penalty expired the Predators quickly found themselves down a man again after Subban put the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. On the powerplay the Wings went to work quickly with Larkin gaining the zone before flipping the puck over to Vanek who dropped it back to the point for Mantha. After cycling the puck up high in the zone, Mantha stepped into an open space from the point and put a shot toward the net. Vanek, parked in front, redirected the shot with Rinne steering the puck to his left where Larkin picked up the rebound and flipped it over the goaltender’s pad and into the net, 2-0 Red Wings!

The joy was short lived though as 0:36 after the Larkin goal, Nashville struck back when Arvidsson took a short pass from Johansen across the top of the Wings zone and wound up for a blast that beat Howard off the far post and in, 2-1.

There was not much Howard could do on the perfectly placed blast. The action slowed for a bit following the Nashville goal with the teams exchanging rushes but not many shots toward the net. The most notable chance through the middle section of the period was a goal mouth scramble in front of Howard where the Predators whacked away at a loose puck but couldn’t put it behind the goaltender.

With 3:33 to go in the period, Abdelkader took an interference penalty at the Nashville blue line. The Predators were very deliberate throughout this powerplay trying to setup Subban on point shot one timers. Eventually on a play where Subban passed it to Johansen who tapped it back, Subban unloaded a cannon shot that beat Howard through a Boyle screen, 2-2.

After Nashville tied the game, the Wings got a series of chances on Rinne including a blast from Larkin in the slot on a puck that found his stick after a bounce. Rinne stood tall on a set of 2-3 saves to keep the score even. Just as the period was coming to a close, DeKeyser stepped up on a hit at the Nashville blue line, but he unfortunately stuck his knee out on the hit drawing a penalty for tripping. The timing was all the more unfortunate as the penalty was taken with less than a couple seconds left so there was no need for DeKeyser to make the play.

The Wings kept up with the Predators better in this period, with Nashville still outshooting Detroit 10-7 in the period but the chances were much closer than in the first period. Unfortunately for the Wings the Predators were able to better capitalise on their chances this time, squaring up the score going into the final period.

3rd Period

The Wings began the final frame by killing off the DeKeyser penalty without giving up a shot to Nashville. Kronwall briefly left the game after taking a dump in shot off the ankle but he quickly returned. A few minutes after the penalty kill, Athanasiou crashed down the right boards for a loose puck in the right circle. AA made a slapping backhand attempt towards the goal with Glendening planted in the crease area. The shot seemed to handcuff Rinne as it ricocheted off his glove hand and found the top of the net, 3-2 Red Wings!

There was little to get excited about either way for a while after the Athanasiou goal as the teams shut each other down through the middle of the period. The shots were only 3-1 Detroit after 7:00 of play in the period. After a Mantha dump-in, he turned to go for a change and in the process received a punch to the back of the head from Forsberg. In response Mantha took a chop at the back of Forsberg’s legs as he went to his own bench. Both were called for offsetting penalties and 4 on 4 action ensued. The Wings got a 2 on 1 chance with the open ice. Larkin sped down the left side before sliding a pass across to Nyquist at the top of the circle to the left of Rinne. After hesitating for a moment, Nyquist fired a shot high to the short side but Rinne did a good job to shoulder the shot away. The Wings had a couple close looks during the 4 on 4 play but none better than that attempt.

Just after the game returned to 5 on 5 the Wings caught a break when a Nashville shot hit the right post and came back to rest underneath Howard sprawled on his back. The Wings known for their habit of blowing these late leads were doing a good job of pushing for an insurance marker rather than playing on their heels. With less than 5:00 remaining the Predators despite being down a goal had totaled 31 shots to the point after having 19 in the first period. The Wings had done a good job of slowing the Predators down after the first period.

The Predators came close to tying the game when Arvidsson tried a scoop play from behind the net, lifting the puck onto the blade of his stick, and trying to wrap it around into the top part of the net. He almost caught Howard with it, but the puck came off his stick and sailed across the crease front instead.

Late in the period with 2:35 to go, Arvidsson took an offensive zone hooking penalty when he hooked Jensen as he attempted to clear the puck from the Red Wings zone. The timing couldn’t have been better to assist the Wings in holding the lead. The Wings were very careful with the man advantage keeping three skaters up high in the offensive zone. The move would prove to be perhaps a bit too conservative as Nashville managed to pull Rinne and gain the offensive zone. Then with 0:56 to play DeKeyser took an elbowing penalty on Ellis in front of Howard. The Predators were set to go to a 5 on 4 advantage and then a 6 on 4 advantage for the final 0:35. Glendening did a great job winning consecutive faceoffs to eat up some clock. Nashville was never able to really gain possession in the offensive zone again and the Wings closed out the victory.

Wrapping Up

This game certainly turned after the first period when it seemed like the Wings were going to have to get lucky and survive a continuous onslaught from Nashville. But they rebounded well in the 2nd and 3rd periods rallying behind Howard’s spectacular first period. This wasn’t the same old Red Wings when they got a lead in the 3rd period. Nashville had a few looks to tie it up but Detroit didn’t seem to collapse like they historically have this season, and even made a good push for more goals. Athanasiou finally scored and it was on a fluky backhand rather than a breakaway. One other notable takeaway is Rasmussen only had 7:57 of ice time in this game. Hopefully Blashill can find more ice time for the kid moving forward. All in all the Wings played a strong second half to the game against an elite opponent and hopefully they can continue to build off this performance, LGRW!