The Detroit Red Wings played an excellent final 40 minutes against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, but the Wings could not overcome 2-0 and 3-1 deficits, losing 3-2 to an inspired Predators team.
This may just be a personal thing, but the Red Wings’ players were rather grumpy with the media after the game, suggesting that they were not going to fold their tent simply because their general manager was selling assets, and I appreciate that kind of attitude.
The playoffs may be a remote possibility at best, but the Wings’ players owe it to themselves, their prospects, their coach and ultimately their fans to be professional and play to win, and I believe it’s essential for any team that wants to eventually get better to work their asses off to be better, even if they are a mediocre team this year.
On Tuesday night, the mediocre Red Wings spotted Nashville a pair of 1st-period goals, and Nashville’s ability to lean on Jusse Saros–in between scoring opportunistic markers–yielded a winning recipe, as noted by NashvillePredators.com’s Brooks Bratten and Thomas Willis:
“I liked the first, I don’t think we were very good in the second and I thought we did what we needed to do in the third period in order to win,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the effort.
Nashville’s start couldn’t have been much better and on their ninth shot of the period, Roman Josi flicked the puck toward the Wings’ cage where it banked off the skates of Scott Hartnell and gently bounced into the far side of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, and in one smooth motion, Kyle Turris brought the puck from in front of Jimmy Howard, reached it around the goalie’s pads and tucked it just inside the goal line to score his first goal in 10 games for a 2-0 advantage.
The territorial edge went to the home team in the middle frame, but Viktor Arvidsson still had a chance to put the Predators ahead 3-0 when he skated in all alone on Howard. But after the forward’s reach to the backhand failed, the Wings found Andreas Athanasiou uncovered at the far blue line and the winger cut the visitors’ lead in half with a one-on-one tally.
A chance for redemption dawned five minutes into the third period, however, as Arvidsson found himself again on a breakaway and this time he was not denied, rifling a shot to the blocker side for a 3-1 Predators lead and his third tally in two games.
“The back-to-backs are always tough with travel, but a huge goal at the time,” Nashville center Ryan Johansen said of the game-winning tally. “The kid made another huge play for us, so that’s what you need when you’re winning games. You need guys making plays and Arvi has been a big reason for our last two wins.”
A goal from Tomas Tatar pulled the Red Wings back to within a goal after a mad scramble in the blue paint, but Saros slammed the door the rest of the way to collect his sixth win of the campaign and send the Preds back to Nashville with two more points in the luggage.
“It was a big win for the team,” Saros said. “Of course it feels good to win, so it was a good road win for us.”
NHL.com’s Dave Hogg picked up the narrative from Saros’ remarks…
“Juuse is a key part of this team because the players have confidence in him and we know that he’s going to give us a chance to win every time,” Laviolette said. “He’s been good all year but we didn’t give him any help at the start of the season.”
Scott Hartnell, Kyle Turris and Viktor Arvidsson scored, and Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis each had two assists for Nashville, which is 7-2-2 in its past 11 games. The Predators (36-14-9, 81 points) are in first place in the Central Division, two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, who lost to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 on Tuesday.
Saros lost 3-1 to the Red Wings on Saturday in Nashville, but the Predators took a 2-0 lead in the first period on Tuesday. That provided the margin needed to end a seven-game losing streak against Detroit (0-6-1).
“We knew we had to do a better job of containing their speed this time,” Arvidsson said. “If you make a mistake against them they can put it in your net in a hurry.”
“We weren’t good enough from the start of the game, and they scored two goals in the first period,” Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “That’s making it hard on ourselves to win.”
The Red Wings (24-26-9, 57 points) are eight points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
“They outplayed us, outworked us and outhustled us in the first period,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “We were great in the second and third periods, but we can’t have those kind of starts.”
The Associated Press’s recap will serve as our pivot point between the Predators and Red Wings‘ perspectives:
The Predators grabbed the lead just 4:18 into the opening period. Roman Josi‘s wrist shot from the point deflected off the right skate of Nashville forward Hartnell before settling into the net behind Howard.
It was 2-0 Predators at 9:35 of the first. Josi’s wrist shot squeezed through the legs of Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall and landed right in front of Nashville center Kyle Turris, who tucked the puck past Howard. It was the first goal by Turris since Jan. 30, ending a nine-game drought.
“We got off to a good start, but the second period wasn’t good at all,” Arvidsson said. “The third period was a lot better, but we still made too many bad decisions.”
The Red Wings got on the board at 10:12 of the second as Athanasiou slipped behind the Nashville defense, took a pass from Dylan Larkin and beat Saros with a stick-side deke move. It was Athanasiou’s first goal in 12 games.
“I think we needed something to kind of get the momentum going, so it was definitely good to help out,” Athanasiou said.
After Arvidsson restored Nashville’s two-goal lead, Detroit pulled back within one at 7:54 of the third. From a goalmouth scramble, Tatar jammed a loose puck past Saros.
“I thought the second half we took it to them,” Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader said. “I felt from the drop of the puck we weren’t winning battles. I thought in the second and third period we were better. It’s tough to spot a team like that two goals. You’ve got to fight and scratch and claw to get back. We did. We had a lot of chances as the game went. It’s tough to finally lose it.”
Abdelkader and the Red Wings also addressed some “business of hockey” questions that they had to field after the game, as noted by the Free Press’s Helene St. James…
“That’s out of our control,” Justin Abdelkader said. “We just have to go out and continue to play hard and I think we’ve done a good job of that lately. You have to try cancel out all the noise and just focus – we are paid to come out and work hard and give our best effort each game.
“It is a business. You see guys moved, that’s part of what happens. It’s unfortunate we’re in this position again and are going to be looking like sellers, but we have to continue to play and whatever group is on the ice, we have to go out 20 guys and fight and try to win each game.”
And after the Wings’ players lamented their inconsistency of effort…
“We had some good chances for sure,” Abdelkader said. “It just feels like sometimes we give up some easy goals and for us to get our goals, we have to fight and really work hard for those. But you spot a really good team two goals and it’s tough to get back, but I thought we really worked hard. We came out in the second and third periods and we won battles, we got pucks to the net, we had chances. It’s just one goal short again, which can be frustrating.”
Athanasiou called it tough.
“You can’t take 10 minutes off. If you do that, other teams are going to pounce on it,” he said.
The coach hammered home the party line:
“As I said to the guys today, regardless of what happens we have good enough players to win a hockey game so let’s go win,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Let’s make sure we play with a chip on our shoulder that way. I didn’t like our total compete in Tampa, but other than that I think we’ve played real hard and certainly the last three games we’ve played real hard and competed, first period aside.”General manager Ken Holland has told Blashill to play the players he feels will give the Wings the best chance to win, that he does not have to showcase any players as possible trade bait.“All I control is our effort and how prepared we are and how hard we play,” Blashill said. “The first period wasn’t acceptable. The guys understood that and they responded and came out great in the second and third. We had tons of chances. We have to make sure we just keep grinding and find a way to score on those chances.”
“First period wasn’t good enough,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They outcompeted us, outskated us and out-detailed us. We have to be better than that.”
And they were, although it was a tough too late.
“Definitely we got off to a bit of a slow start,” Howard said. “As the game progressed, we were real good.”
But insistent that the team is not about to play out the string:
“We have lots of fight in us,” Blashill said. “As somebody gets traded, you can think about who you lost but I tend to always think about who we have and we have lots of good players in here that give us a great chance to win on a nightly basis and we’ve proven that.
“When we lose tough games like we did the other night, when something like that happens, you have a trade like we did, it’s easy for lots of people to say we’re finished. We’re not finished.”
If the Red Wings play as fast and gritty as they did the final 40 minutes, the final six weeks of the season could still be worthwhile. They intend for that to happen.
“The guys in this locker room have not given up,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said.
Among DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji’s “Trending” recap’s notes:
Tomas Tatar: You have to go to the net in today’s NHL if you want to score and that’s what Tatar did. The Wings’ power play had just expired and Saros had stopped Athanasiou’s shot just before but wasn’t able to corral the rebound. Abdelkader was already at the net-front and Tatar went there and shoved the loose puck into the net at 7:54 of the third period, cutting the lead to 3-2. Tatar has four goals and one assist in his last six games. In 12 career games against the Predators, Tatar has seven goals and three assists.
Quotable: “If you play fast all the time, with the speed that we have, you put teams on their heels. In most games it depends who’s on their heels. The first period, with their forecheck and O-zone grind, they had us on our heels, and I thought the second and third – there were moments in the third still where they had some O-zone grind. They’re a good team. But I thought in the second and third we put them on their heels more often than not because of how fast we were playing in terms of wanting to attack up the ice, wanting to jam it down their throat, wanting the puck, wanting to move the puck up, all those things.” – Blashill
The Wings didn’t look quite as fast without Mike Green’s outlet passes (Green is scheduled to return on Thursday vs. Buffalo), but something tells me that the Wings will have to get used to that.
Highlights: NHL.com posted a 4:13 highlight clip…
Fox sports Detroit posted clips of Henrik Zetterberg…
The Detroit News posted a 33-image gallery;
ESPN posted an 10-image gallery;
Here’s the Game Summary…
And the Event Summary:
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan spoke to Mike Green about his status…
“We’ve had a talk,” said Green, regarding discussion with the front office. Green has a no-trade clause, and can derail a proposed trade to a destination he doesn’t prefer.
“That’s between us, though,” Green said. “We’ll see what happens. As far as right now I’ll be here. I’ll work hard and make sure I contribute. Just play hard, work hard, and nothing changes.”
Green missed his third consecutive game Tuesday, dealing with an upper-body injury. Green fully expected to return for Thursday’s game against Buffalo.“My approach doesn’t change,” Green said. “I just stick to the process. That’s the only thing you can do.”
Green seemed open to the idea of waiving his no-trade clause — as long as it’s a team he believes can be a Stanley Cup contender.“If it’s brought upon and we have another discussion about it, we’ll have to see,” Green said. “I can’t give a definitive answer. (But) my mind is always open.”
“I consider myself a very, very patient person. I want to believe in people, I want to give people lots of time because it’s a tough league and I don’t want to make assessments on players that are 21, 22. I have to give them time. In this instance, Mrazek’s 26. He’s been here for four or five more years,” Holland said. “All I can do is watch games and make assessments based upon what I see,” he added.
“It’s a new chapter, a new life, and I’m looking forward to it,” the Flyers’ new goaltender said Tuesday after arriving at the Wells Fargo Center.The 26-year-old Mrazek, acquired Monday night in a trade that sent two conditional draft picks to Detroit, served as Alex Lyon’s backup Tuesday against Montreal, but he figures to get the bulk of the starts the rest of the season.“I didn’t play much in the first half of the season, and I think it was tough for me to find my game,” said Mrazek, who was used in just 22 games before the trade. “But during that stretch, I worked hard on the ice to try to improve my game, and I think in the last two months, my game was in the right direction.”…Giroux called the 6-foot-2, 181-pound Mrazek “a real dominating goalie, and it’s exciting to have him on our team.”Mrazek is not only trying to help steer the Flyers into the playoffs, but he is in an audition of sorts. He can become an unrestricted free agent in July and, with a solid finish to the season, the Flyers might give him a $4 million qualifying offer.“I’m open to everything and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “The first thing right now is to make the playoffs.”
Where Mrazek goes from here is largely dependent on how he performs over the next month. He’ll be the Flyers’ daily starter for as long as it takes Elliott and/or Neuvirth to return healthy, which likely means for the rest of the regular season. At that point, the two injured Flyers goalies will probably only be sharp enough for backup duty.
Mrazek, meanwhile, will be looking to not only keep his new team on track for the playoffs, but perhaps impress Hextall to the point of winning a contract extension. Despite his struggles early in the season, that seems within the realm off possibility, since over his last dozen games with the Wings he went 6-3-2 with a .924 save percentage.
“I came to the camp ready to play, but I didn’t play much the first half of the season,” Mrazek said. “I played maybe once in two weeks, once in three weeks. So it was tough, but during that stretch I worked hard on the ice and tried to improve my game. I think in the last two months the game was in the right direction.”