The Wings won the final showdown with their big Central Division rivals last night, with a 2-1 score making the season series stand at 6-1-1 in their favor in the end. It was an interesting game, with periods of tentative play interspersed with frantic, high tempo action, stretches which usually came in the second half of periods. Both teams knew how important the game was and it was really as close as they come. The Wings took first place in the Conference with the win, as both teams have the same number of points, but Nashville has the lesser points percentage.
… Chris Osgood started for the Wings and looked great. He only faced 25 shots, but had to make a number of key saves to keep the Wings in it and he came up big. The only Predator goal was just a great play and probably would have been an impossible shot for anyone to stop. On the whole, Osgood played one of his best games of the year in one of the most important games of the season.
… At the other end, Tomas Vokoun put up a good performance himself. The Wings put 30 shots on net and he was beaten by two Detroit goals that could have very easily gone the other way.
… The Predators opened the scoring at 9:10, just as a Kirk Maltby power play was expiring. After cycling it along the right wing boards, Alexander Radulov stepped out and dished dit down low to David Legwand before heading to the net. Legwand faced down Danny Markov and then sent a backhand pass to Radulov at the side of the net as he skated out of the corner along the right side boards. Radulov quickly dished the puck out front to JP Dumont, who decided not to shoot and sent the puck across to Legwand. At this point, the Wings defense was caught flatfooted and Osgood was down, having expected a shot from Dumont, who was very close in. Legwand, being further out, had a better shot at the top of the net and put it in, giving Nashville a 1-0 lead.
… That opened up the game, which had been pretty defensive until then. Todd Bertuzzi had the biggest chance in the time following the Predator goal, breaking in on Vokoun, but getting stoned at 10:10. Just under four minutes later, Todd played a part in the Wings’ first goal, as he tipped the puck over the blueline to Pavel Datsyuk, who dished it ahead to a streaking Johan Franzen. The Mule put it over Tomas Vokoun’s glove, with a surprised Ryan Suter looking on.
… The Wings took the lead at 7:30 of the second period while on the power play. Datsyuk cycled the puck along the right side boards and sent it down to Bertuzzi. Todd deked around a diving Greg Zanon and stuffed the puck on net. In the ensuing scramble, Datsyuk skated in, pulled the puck back and then put it in the net over a prone Vokoun. Another nice garbage goal by Pavel.
… Scary moment early in the third period while the Wings were killing off a penalty: Chris Osgood sent the puck up to Mathieu Schneider, who was immediately covered by a Predator. Scheider dumped the puck off behind him, but it deflected off the Nashville skate and ended up hitting the post of his own net. A nice Paul Coffey-esque moment, to be sure.
… At one point in the third period, Vernon Fiddler and Danny Markov looked to be heading towards a fight, with Markov checking his fight strap before the faceoff, but the situation fizzled out and nothing came of it.
… Others have noticed this, but Tomas Vokoun sure freezes the puck a lot, even under the lightest pressure. I understand having confidence in your centers, but it gets a little ridiculous.
… As the game wound down, the Wings put up enough offense to keep the Preds on their heels, but focused mainly on defending their lead. They were hard put to it in the final minutes, as Johan Franzen was slapped with a bogus goaltender interference penalty at 17:25. Vokoun stepped sideways out of the crease into Franzen as play went up ice , thereby preventing Johan from backchecking. It should have been interference on Vokoun.
…. The ensuing Nashville power play was pretty hectic, but it ended without a goal. Franzen came out of the box with an attitude and bowled over the Predator defenseman at the line after Dan Cleary’s valient attempt at clearing the zone. Johan’s hit ensure the puck left the zone and then led to a fast break with Kris Draper and Alexander Radulov racing for the puck. With the net empty, Radulov decided to interfere with Draper, who hauled the Predator down as a result. Both went off and the teams went to four a side with 29 seconds left.
… The final seconds had a playoff-like atmosphere, as the Predators fought for a goal like they would in an elimination game. For whatever reason, Marek Zidlicky wasn’t called for goaltender interference when he skated through the crease behind Osgood and bumped him, but it didn’t matter, as Osgood made the saves necessary until the final shot. In that last heartstopping flurry, it was Nick Lidstrom who made the save of the game and then the horn sounded. The Predators on ice slumped over, sticks on knees.
… It was an enormous win for the Wings, who wouldn’t have done it without the goaltending Chris Osgood provided. Dominik Hasek obviously could have put up a similar, it not better, performance, but with his health being the primary thing, it was smart of Babcock to use Ozzie instead. The Wings overall looked good, thuogh maybe not as good as they looked on Monday or in the last two games against Nashville. They still have things to work on, such as having faster starts than their opponents, but it was a more complete game than many they’ve played this season.
… Be sure to check out Dave’s game recap.
… Tonight, they face Dallas at home. The Stars are 8-3-3 this month, but have lost all three games they’ve played against the Wings this season. They are a possible first-round matchup, with a likely finish no higher than 5th. For the Wings, a win over Dallas would in first place outright (rather than because of a tie-breaker), and they would stay in first even with a Nashville win tomorrow over Dallas tomorrow night, as they would again win the points percentage tie-breaker.
… Dominik Hasek will be in net tonight for the Wings, and I expect Marty Turco will man the pipes at the other end.
… Brett Lebda (concussion) is listed as questionable, but may be more of a game-time decision.