During what was probably the grittiest performance to date by the shorthanded Detroit Red Wings, Jordin Tootoo almost had himself a dream return to Nashville. Pavel Datsyuk, too, nearly stole the show with a dazzling individual effort.
Instead, it was Shea Weber and the host Predators who had the last laugh. Nashville’s star blueliner dashed in to knock home a rebound of a Colin Wilson shot 44 seconds into overtime to help his team escape with a 4-3 win at Bridgestone Arena.
Already leading the NHL in man-games lost to injury by a wide margin, it looked like another one of those nights early on for the Red Wings. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall went back to the locker room after getting crunched along the boards, and Cory Emmerton was bloodied by a puck to the face. Both would return, but goaltender Jimmy Howard wasn’t as lucky, departing midway through the first period with an upper-body injury.
Jonas Gustavsson would take over, just back from his own ailment. Perhaps sensing that they would need to pick things up in front of their backup goalie, the Red Wings responded with tenacious forechecking and overall effort throughout a scoreless second period.
They finally broke through on a fortunate bounce at the 11:33 mark of the third. With Gustavsson already off for a sixth skater on a delayed penalty, Tootoo attempted a pass from right to left for Henrik Zetterberg. It deflected off a Nashville skate past a surprised Pekka Rinne instead, giving Tootoo his first goal as a Red Wing and knotting the game at 2-2.
The Predators got their own break just 1:21 later when Roman Josi‘s shot bounced off Joakim Andersson‘s stick for an unassisted goal. That’s when Datsyuk took matters into his own hands, going end-to-end and weaving his way through four Nashville skaters to even the score at 3-3 with 6:30 left in regulation.
Weber dashed any hopes of Detroit earning two points by scoring into a wide open net in the opening minutes of overtime. Craig Smith and Gabriel Bourque also scored for Nashville while staking their team to an early 2-0 lead, and Rine made 6 saves to pick up the victory.
Gustavsson was solid in his second appearance of 2013, sopping 16 of the 18 shots he faced. Howard gave up two goals on just seven shots before he was forced to leave. Dan Cleary scored Detroit’s first goal, a shorthanded effort set up brilliantly by Datsyuk in the first period.
The wounded Red Wings will limp back home to Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, attempting to halt what is now a four-game losing streak. Detroit has back-to-back home games this weekend against Nashville and the Vancouver Canucks.
The game was over when…
The Wings didn’t come out in overtime with quite the same intensity for the extra period that they showed in the previous two. Even though he’s off to a slow goal-scoring start, you always have to account for Weber. A failure to do so meant a great effort was only worth one point.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
How it could not be Gustavsson? The guy hasn’t played since opening night, gets called into action suddenly and almost immediately comes under fire from Weber. He wasn’t sensational, but he played well, and there wasn’t much he could do about either goal he allowed.