Wings 4, Predators 3

The Detroit Red Wings held off a Nashville Predator comeback bid in the third period on their way to a 4-3 win at Joe Louis Arena. It was their third win in a row.

Just a few thoughts on the game:

… Despite the fact that he notched two assists, Nick Lidstrom looked a little rusty in his return. I’m thinking specifically of his uncharacteristic stumble which led to him being forced to take a penalty at 9:23 in the third. Overall, he looked himself. There were just some moments where you could tell he’d missed time.

He finished with 24:34 in TOI, second to Brian Rafalski’s 25:34. Nick is expected to play tomorrow against the Blackhawks.

… It was nice to finally see Jiri Hudler break out of that horrendous slump. Hopefully he can keep it up now.

… I was surprised to learn that it was Johan Franzen’s first multi-goal game. He’s now scored in three consecutive games and is warming up from the playoffs. He filled in for Tomas Holmstrom quite well, I thought.

Holmstrom, by the way, is having an MRI done on his groin today and will not play tomorrow.

… Jonathan Ericsson rather than Derek Meech played for Brett Lebda. I hardly noticed the big Swede all game. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that he only played 10:18.

… Niklas Kronwall has played like a new man since his return from that freak injury. It’s obvious that he can be scary good if he can only stay healthy. Assuming he can fully break his habit of missing half the season, I would not be surprised to see him win a couple Norris Trophies down the road. His play on Hudler’s goal was just great.

… Brad Stuart scored his first goal as a Red Wing on a nice wrap-around effort. I’m still trying to figure out what he was doing so low during a 4-on-4. You can see him taking the open right wing from the point down to the goalline in the replay. Solid offensive instincts, I guess.

… Now, about the nearly-blown lead. The Preds’ first goal was just a bomb by Shea Weber through a crowd. Obviously, you’d prefer to see Dominik Hasek stop that, but it’s no big deal. On the second goal, the coverage ideally would have been better on the left wing man and you’d like to see Hasek control the rebound. Still, it was a nice play by the Predators.

It’s the third goal that I have a problem with. I had just noticed Jordin Tootoo’s presence on the ice in the final stretch of the game and thought it odd. The next thing I know, he’s pounding home the puck on a flurry in front of the net. Nick Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg are right there. How does Jordin Tootoo gain position on two of the best defensive players in hockey?

… After the Tootoo goal, I had to think, “We could actually lose this thing.” Fortunately the Wings realized that too, and did a good job of keeping the puck out of their end in the final minute. Still, the damage had been done. What could have been a decent-if-problematic win was tarnished by an all-too-successful Predators comeback bid.

… It’s obvious that even with the return of Lidstrom, the team has not ironed out all the kinks. Even before the Predators’ strong third, the Wings didn’t play their best at even strength. Their lead was the product of the Preds’ penchant for taking penalties (many of which were deserved, by the way, though not all). Had the game not been a penalty fest, the result may have been different.

The Predators were weak offensively through the second period, but it’s hard to blame them as they spent large swaths of the first period down a man and were playing from behind the whole second as the Wings pressed home the attack. Once the Wings let off the gas in the third, the Predators were pretty easily able to stage a comeback bid. The hole they had dug just turned out to be too deep to climb out of in time.

… This was one of those wins that, for me at least, feel something like a loss. A 4-0 final may have been somewhat misleading, but the first and second period seemed to mark a near return to the team’s efficient play of October through January. A 4-3 final just shows that the team still has some issues to work out.