Just like the previous night, the Detroit Red Wings entered their Thursday game against the Nashville Predators needing two points. And just like Wednesday, the Wings once again fell behind 1-0, this time before some of the fans at Joe Louis Arena were even in their seats.
Fortunately, the rest of the game stuck to the same script too. Detroit got good performances from its top line, its checking line and timely goaltending from Jimmy Howardto run away from Nashville 5-2 and get a win that may punch its ticket to the postseason.
Mike Fisher opened the scoring just 1:46 into the game, finishing off a two-on-0ne with Rich Clune and giving Howard no chance. Valteri Filppula’s 100th career goal – off a very nice passing play with Johan Franzen and Daniel Cleary – evened the score, but the Predators retook the lead when Craig Smith ventured into the slot and had his initial shot blocked right back to him to fire home at the 12:30 mark of the first.
The Red Wings began the second period on the power play, but ended up pulling even right after a holding call on Nick Spaling expired. This time it was Franzen who was the goal-scorer, elevating the puck over Predators goalie Chris Mason from a tight angle.
Fittingly, it was Detroit’s checking line that struck next, showing some offensive chemistry for the second straight game. Jordin Tootoo found Patrick Eaves open at the circle, and he one-timed a shot past Mason for just his second goal of 2013 at the 3:41 of the second period.
Howard made an incredible save diving back across his crease to make the 3-2 score stand up, the best of his 20 stops on the night. He was also called upon several times to make key saves in the final period, though Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader gave him insurance goals to account for the final margin.
The Red Wings outshot the Predators 38-22 on the night, a good sign in a game they had to have. A win by the Dallas Stars against the Columbus Blue Jackets would clinch a playoff spot for the Wings, extending their string of postseason appearances to 22 in a row.
If Detroit needs another point or two, it can get them on Saturday against the Dallas Stars. A lot of fans may have been nervous the way things have played out in the second half of the season, but all of a sudden, things are trending the right way for the Wings as it comes to a close.
The game was over when…
Eaves got a chance to find the twine, one he richly deserved. He’s obviously not much of a goal scorer, but it sure looked that way when he confidently blasted his shot home. He and Tootoo have something going right now, and with the playoffs (probably) on the horizon, the Wings may have found some extra scoring at the best possible time.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
Let’s go with Jonathan Ericsson in this one. Logged plenty of minutes, dished out six hits, didn’t do anything egregiously dumb in coverage or with the puck. That qualifies.