The Wings lost their points lead in the Central Division when they dropped their second straight game to Nashville last night, 2-1 at the Joe. Because they have more wins than Nashville, they still are the top team in the division but had they not gotten the point that comes with losing in overtime, they would be fourth in the Conference now.
The Predators got outstanding goaltending last night and won because of that more than anything else. Detroit out-chanced them and out-shot them but Tomas Vokoun was a vacuum, making many saves that were as much pure luck as skill. He gave up very few rebounds and absorbed the puck in an amazing way. In one instance, a Brendan Shanahan shot went off the left post and bounced back out, lodging itself somehow in the back
of his glove instead of going in off his back as you'd expect (or hope). Another time, he made a save with his blocker arm but there was no rebound, it just disappeared.
The Wings' only goal was scored purely because Brendan Shanahan's big frame was squarely in front of Vokoun, who likely never saw it, though even then he made motions as if to save it. That goal came at 11:32 of the first period and was on the power play.
The Predators tied it up when a miscue at the blueline turned the puck over while the Wings were on a power play. Steve Sullivan picked it up and broke in down the left wing. Another breakaway for the guy who has to be the fastest skater in the NHL. He cut across the net and shot the puck over a frozen Manny Legace, who was left quite helpless by his teammates.
Both teams had a 5-on-3 power play but neither converted. The Wings' power play was strong tonight and would have scored more had it not been for Vokoun. They got the puck set up and cycled it well for the most part but were unable to convert except for Schneider's goal. They got into penalty trouble of their own and generally at inopportune times but killed off all 7 Nashville power plays, though at times it got a little tense.
The Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Shanahan line was strong again and generated the majority of the Detroit offensive pressure and scoring chances. Of the three, only Henrik Zetterberg got a point on the night, however. Shanahan's 6 shots was double any Red Wing's total and two more than the two Predators with the most shots. It's good to see Shanny so involved in the offense but a goal or two on those six shots would have been nice.
Nick Lidstrom lead all skaters in ice time, as usual, (28:41) but second in ice time for the Wings was Chris Chelios with 22:55. Cheli had a good game and earned that ice time for sure. He's a marvel at 44 (as of today, Happy Birthday, Cheli!).
The Wings brought some pretty serious pressure toward the end of the game but the Preds turned it away and put on some serious pressure of their own in the final minute. I really thought they'd score but soon the period ended and we headed to overtime.
The JLA crowd was very loud as OT started and the Wings looked to be feeding off it as they controlled the puck for the first 30 seconds or so. Then Paul Kariya got the puck and turned on the jets. He flew by Mathieu Schneider and broke in on Legace, sending the puck over the Wings goalie as he fell at :35 of overtime. With that, the Predators stole another game by a goal, leaving Detroit with four points out a possible four and with the lead in the Central Division fully within their grasp.
If Tomas Vokoun plays like he has in the past two games, I must say I am very worried about facing Nashville in the playoffs. I think Detroit can hold them as a team but if they can't beat Vokoun consistently, I have doubts about their ability to come out of such a series alive. As good a tandem as Legace and Osgood are, I don't think they can provide the sort of game-winning play Vokoun seems to be able to bring. Their defense and offense are as good as anybodies but, really for the first time this season, I'm having some doubts about our netminding. It's good and would be adequate but this mini-series proved that they can give up just two goals and still lose if the other goalie is stopping practically everything the Wings can through at him.
Don't get me wrong, I think Manny played great the past two nights. The goals he allowed were not fluff at all and he made a number of very good saves at other times. It's just that it's hard for me to see him or Osgood stealing a game for us.
It's going to be interesting, the rest of this season series.
They need to rebound with a win Thursday against the Canucks. Wins are even more important now.
Abel to Yzerman's game report
*compiled by Brian