The Wings came through with a great effort in a 3-1 win over the Predators in Gaylord Entertainment Center. The game lived up to its hype, with a playoff environment for much of the game, and the Predators fans chanting loudly with both teams skating hard. Manny Legace got the start for the Wings, and had 28 saves on 29 shots. He looked very sharp throughout the game, even at times where he fell out of position and had to make acrobatic saves. Vokoun was also strong for Nashville, but failed to make the saves on a power play dominated by Nicklas Lidstrom point shots. The Wings had trouble establishing control in the Predators zone on the power play at times, something that was tough to understand for the league's power play leaders. Johan Franzen was out injured, and replaced by Mark Mowers.
The Wings opened the first period skating hard, kept up with the Predators' energy. But skating hard didn't necessarily convert to many chances for the Wings early on in the first. Mark Mowers had a good one at 10:48, splitting two Predators defensemen and deiking Vokoun, who made a glove save. Mowers drew a Nashville penalty on the play, but the Wings failed to establish any control in the Nashville zone.
At 13:30 of the first, Lilja had an obstruction penalty along the near boards. It was a good call, and the Predators converted just 25 seconds into their man advantage. On the play, Fiddler cleaned up on a point shot rebound to make it 1-0 Nashville. It was a bad goal all around. Lilja for getting the interference penalty, and the Wings defense for letting Fiddler get behind them for the rebound.
The Wings got a power play chance at 14:42, after Sullivan was caught hooking Datsyuk. Again, the Wings had trouble establishing much of a presence in the Nashville zone on the power play. Lang particularly had trouble, and his turnover in the Wings' zone didn't help. The best chance actually came a short time after the man advantage, when Holmstrom found a rebound near the left circle.
The Wings had a great chance from Zetterberg as time expired, taking a feed from Samuelsson down low. The puck bounced high over the boards off Vokoun's pads. That made it 11-10 Wings in shots.
The second period started with a Lidstrom hooking call at 1:24, his 24th PIM of the season. That's rather high for the multiple-year Lady Byng nominee. The Wings gained momentum off the penalty kill, with a great chance from Holmstrom in front. On the play, Shanahan passed in to Holmstrom from the far boards, but Vokoun contained the Holmstrom shot to avoid a potentially dangerous rebound.
At 4:21, Lang got caught hooking right off the faceoff, and this started Nashville's burst of chances. Their best chances of the man advantage came at 6:02, when got a shot off between the circles and had a rush of traffic in front with multiple rebound tries. Legace was his strongest of the game on this play, and the one ten seconds later that nearly mimicked the rush of chances.
The Wings seemed to come alive after Legace's stand in net. At 8:35, Williams passed from the near side to Zetterberg back door, but he hit the goalpost with Vokoun down and out. A minute later, after drawing a Timonen hooking call, Woolley shot and missed an open net on a slightly bad angle. It was that kind of night for Zetterberg, who even hit the post on an empty net as time expired.
On the power play, the Wings still couldn't establish themselves in the Nashville zone, making for 0 for 4 so far in the game on the PP. But they made up for it with good pressure after even strength ensued. At 16:18, the Wings had a good chance with Pavel passing to Holmstrom in front. Vokoun was strong on those plays all game though, not giving up too many rebounds.
The Wings got another power play at 16:50 with a Weber tripping call, and the Wings converted 26 seconds later on a Lidstrom point shot to make it 1-1. Vokoun was screened, and Lang picked up the assist. That made the Wings 1 for 5 on the PP so far.
The Wings picked up another penalty with a Kariya hooking call. It was the story of the second period: the Wings skating hard and moving their feet, and the Predators forced to hook and hold to prevent scoring chances. Shots in the period were 15-10 Wings.
The Wings carried their momentum into the third, with a goal from Williams two minutes in. On the play, Williams got a feed from Samuelsson in front, and shot it high over Vokoun's shoulder to make it 2-1 Wings. The Nashville defense fell asleep on this play, as it was a 2-on-2 in the Nashville zone and much credit should be given to Samuelsson's work along the boards.
At 6:17, first period scorer Fiddler had a wrap-around chance on Legace, but shot it high off the goalpost with Legace down way too early and the top of the net wide open.
It was a scary moment at 11:28 when punk Scott Hartnell checked Cleary into Legace behind the net. Thankfully, Legace got up ok and the Wings got a power play with Hartnell in the box for goaltender interference. It was a cheap play by Hartnell, with Legace obviously in a dangerous position, and reminded Wings fans of past cheap plays by the goon. He was the one who hurt Legace back in 2001, and Fischer in 2003. Color commentator Mickey Redmond was talking about how dirty of a player Hartnell was only seconds before he ran Legace.
The Wings scored late in the ensuing power play at 13:07, on another Lidstrom blast from the point. Replay showed Shanahan getting the tip, making for his 11th power play goal of the season. Yzerman and Lidstrom got the assists. The assist from Yzerman put him tied with Gordie Howe at 7th all time in assists at 1049. 3-1 Wings. Shots in the period were 9-7 Predators, 33-29 Wings overall.
The Wings certainly pulled out their "A" game and played up to the tempo of the night. It felt like a playoff game, and the home crowd was wild all night. They almost sounded like a University of Michigan hockey home crowd, chanting "Red Wings Suck" and jeering the Wings every chance they could. Lidstrom continued his stellar power play work with a goal and an assist. Legace was as good as he was before getting injured, and really kept the Wings in the game with his second period stand. The Wings probably had their best game of the season tonight. The win put them six points ahead of Nashville in the Central, and marked the mid-point of the season: game 41.
Yzerman got good ice time (13:28) on a line with Lang and Draper. Lidstrom had another multi-point night, with a goal and an assist. He also played 31:46. Lang led all forwards with 19:55 ice time. Chris Osgood will get the start for the Sunday evening game versus the Dallas Stars.