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Recap: Wings Prove More Offensively Crippled than Preds, Lose 3-2

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

Well, this was disappointing. You love to see your team win in the last minute, but lose in the last minute? Whatever, man. Let’s get down to the details.

First Period

In the early going of the period the Wings came to play. Great stuff to see. The best chance early came from Bobby Ryan attempting his best Todd Bertuzzi impression in front of the Preds’ goal, and while he didn't convert, it really set the tone for the first period.

Shortly after, Zadina dominated a shift and you have to keep feeling good about where things are going with the kid. There was so much excitement when he dropped to Detroit in the draft that it feels like it nearly makes up for the Red Wings falling back year after year. His debut this year is really promising so far, so fingers crossed he turns out to be the player we’re all hoping for.

The Wings looked absolutely dominant at times in the period, due in part to Nashville’s strategy of just building a human wall around their net. It was surprising to see Detroit rack up as relatively few shots throughout the middle section of the period, but it was only due to Nashville blocking several shots.

The game moved at a crazy pace, with few whistles, until Dante Fabbro tripped Robby Fabbri, giving the Wings the opportunity to redeem the power play against a weak penalty kill. Redemption was not to be had, though.

It would be Nashville whose power play would strike first, though, as Josi, Forsberg, and Ellis had a nice tic-tac-toe play off a Bobby Ryan tripping call. It was frustrating to see because it was Helm’s job to cover Forsberg and Helm didn’t apply enough pressure, but he also trailed Forsberg behind Staal, nearly behind the goal line, then loses him. Helm spent the next couple seconds lost on the ice as he tried to get back into position. The end result was a discombobulated Detroit PK and a 1-0 Nashville lead.

Detroit responded well, though, and if you’re looking for progress from last year to this year, this is what you want to see. Detroit pressured Nashville and was rewarded with a long period of sustained zone time. Even when the puck slide out to neutral ice, Detroit rallied and regained the offensive zone. Off this sequence, Mantha lugged the puck into the zone along the left-side boards while Detroit made a change. Mantha lost an edge in a dustup with a Nashville defenseman but stayed on the play, getting up and reclaiming the puck, feeding it to a streaking Fabbri who totally surprised Rinne on a tough-angle shot to tie the game, 1-1, heading into the second period!

Score: 1-1 Tie
Shots: 9-8 Red Wings
Stand Outs: Fabbri, Mantha, Greiss
Sit Downs: Power Play, Penalty Kill, and Helm

Second Period

Nashville had two scary chances early, but Greiss was able to keep the puck out of the net with some help from Nemestnikov and Djoos on each respective threat.

But what is this I see? Troy Stecher started hauling through the neutral zone while both teams were changing. Jarred Tinordi tried to take the body on him, but Stecher dodged out of the way just in time, drawing a tripping penalty for good measure. The power play struggled to get established, but Rinne was given a strong challenge by Mantha in the final 30 seconds.

Through the middle of the frame the game slowed down quite a bit. Earlier in the period Detroit was able to smother Nashville’s transition game, but the Preds slowed down their game and cleaned up their passes, adjusting away from Detroit’s more up-tempo control of the game.

Smith took an interference penalty around the ten minute mark, but Detroit handled the PK quite well this time around. Nielsen even found some younger legs to scramble for a loose puck and key clearing.

In the transition back to full strength, Blashill managed to get Larkin and Mantha out on the ice quickly. Mantha nearly gave Detroit the lead off a nifty Larkin feed right on Rinne’s doorstep, but the Finnish netminder looked five years younger as he sprawled across the crease to deny the goal.

Sometime around this point in the game Ken announced that Helm would not be returning due to a lower body injury

Nielsen also got a great opportunity on a turnover in the Preds’ zone, but Rinne denied him as well. A true depth goal would have been really something in a game that the Wings had thus far controlled convincingly.

Late in the period Detroit had an offensive zone faceoff, lost it, and Nashville suddenly remembered how to pass again for what felt like the first time since their goal in the first, and makes another tic-tac-toe play all the way up ice to Matt Duchene, who fires a shot right past Greiss to make it 2-1 Predators. The play shouldn’t have developed the way it did, but Merrill allowed himself to get taken out of position by trying to poke the puck away from Calle Jarnkrok. Nielsen also ended up a half step behind Duchene, so bad stuff just all around on that sequence.

(I really, really appreciate how not-dumb the Wings’ twitter is. I’d probably just cry if a Wing scored a goal and the corresponding tweet just said ‘PIZZA PIZZA!’)

But our depth scoring hero is actually Marc Staal, who scored on a relatively harmless shot, 2-2 tie game! Another goal scored in the twilight of the period keep the Wings all even after two in Nashville.

Score: 2-2 Tie
Shots: 19-15 Red Wings
Stand Outs: Larkin, Zadina, Mantha, Staal
Sit Downs: Merrill, Nielsen

Third Period

The period basically started with the Wings on the power play since Mikael Granlund tossed the puck over the glass for the delay-of-game penalty. Mantha and Fabbri nearly combined to score again, but once again the power play fell flat. The man-advantage didn’t look particularly bad, but Detroit just couldn’t convert and Nashville managed to find space to clear the puck.

Granlund came back onto the ice and gobbled up a loose puck along the sidewall and Brome jammed his stick in Granlund’s skates to give Nashville the man advantage. Greiss had to make a good save, but Detroit di a solid job on the PK otherwise. So good, in fact, that they would get another opportunity shortly thereafter thanks to a pretty weak hooking call against Fabbri. Detroit killed that one off, too, though, and as the game sailed toward the second half of the period, the pace started to heat up.

The Wings would get another turn on the power play thanks to Yakov Trenin hooking Christian Djoos. Aaaaaaand of course Nashville got a 3-on-2, but Greiss stood tall. Overall the power play did not look good and failed to convert, but the Wings rode the power play to another 45 seconds of continued pressure in the zone. Mantha would get another great opportunity and come just short of converting on a breakaway.

Just inside the final minute, Dante Fabbro roofed a shot from the blue line through traffic and past Greiss to make it 3-2 Predators.

Unfortunately, there was no more late period magic from the Red Wings and they would have to settle for a loss in a game they absolutely should have won.

Score: 3-2 Predators
Shots: 26-23 Red Wings
Stand Outs: Zadina, Mantha
Sit Downs: It didn’t feel like anyone in particular played poorly other than nobody could step up and find the back of the net.

Conclusions

These are the types of losses that you really wouldn’t care about if you hadn’t watched the Red Wings lose nine of their last ten. It’s the first game of the season where I feel confident saying they should have won. Still, what a dumb, dumb way to lose a hockey game.

Detroit’s inability to generate goals is just maddening. Detroit’s best players all had good games, but they only produced a single goal, and Marc Staal provided the other. It was a goal Detroit should consider themselves lucky to have, because it wasn’t particularly threatening.

And Brome makes a lot of high-effort plays that look really good, but I sometimes think of Mrazek and all those wild(ly inefficient) saves he would make. I don’t dislike Brome, but sometimes I wonder if he brings more heat than light to his line. He’s a top-9 player on this squad without a doubt, but at this point I think I’d rather see someone else get more consistent minutes with Larkin and Zadina. Bertuzzi is the obvious long-term solution, but in the meantime I think I’d rather see Smith in that role. I’m not on totally on board the Smith bandwagon, except I guess it seems right now I actually am.

Detroit will get the chance for revenge on Saturday at 8 Eastern once again.