NASHVILLE, Tenn.--The Detroit Red Wings tried to play through rusty goaltending, delivering a furious third period that saw them cut their deficit to one goal time and again.
It wasn't enough to overcome a rusty outing by Jimmy Howard, with the Wings falling, 6-4 Monday at Bridgestone Arena to the Nashville Predators. It was the Wings' last game before Wednesday's Winter Classic against Toronto at Michigan Stadium.
Howard had a bad night--in front of Team USA general manager David Poile, no less--allowing one soft goal after another. Playing from behind doesn't help skaters, but the Wings didn't distinguish themselves with much sustained effort until the third period.
The third period saw the Wings twice cut the lead to a goal, only to promptly drop back to a two-goal deficit. Pavel Datsyuk and Drew Miller scored, with replies from Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson's second of the night. Patrick Eaves made it a one-goal game again with 5 minutes to play, but that was as close as the Wings got.
In a trend that has defined their first half, the Wings regained the services of Howard and Darren Helm only to lose Daniel Alfredsson right before the game as a late scratch because of an upper-body injury. Neither Helm nor Howard had played in three weeks and it showed, as expected, more for the goalie.
Howard gave up two bad goals within 10 minutes, allowing clear shots by Wilson and Craig Smith, the latter of whom got the puck off a faceoff, crossed into Detroit's zone, toed the puck and sent a rising wrist shot into Detroit's net. Justin Abdelkader had scored at the 3-minute mark, which left the Wings in better shape than they maybe deserved. A 4-minute high-sticking call on Drew Miller pretty much stalled the Wings offensively the second half of the first period, but they did a good job on that to come out of the period, 2-1.
Five minutes into the second period, the Wings were staring a 3-1 deficit. After battle along the boards, the puck squirted loose. Nick Spaling picked it up, racing off towards Detroit's net with only Niklas Kronwall between him and Howard, and slipped the puck glove side on Howard. The rest of the Wings didn't distinguish themselves, with seven shots on net around halfway through the game. Flurries here and there the last 10 minutes of the second period helped, and Abdelkader came through with a nice tradeoff when he fought Mike Fisher, taking both of them off the ice for 5 minutes, bridging into the third period.
Pressed for time, the Wings united Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk to start the third period, a move that paid off when Datsyuk scored on a one-timer 35 seconds into the period to edge Detroit within a goal. The teams traded goals until Eaves' power play marker with 5 minutes to go put Detroit back within striking distance. Roman Josi found an empty net with 18.6 seconds to go.
(c)2013 Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services