Nashville’s Vezina-contending goaltender and pair of fresh-faced rookies led the team to a momentous 3-1 win at home against rival Detroit on Saturday night in Music City.
From the get-go, the game had a playoff-like feel to it. The refs seemed to let a lot of could-be penalties go, and it gave the contest a little bit more animosity to it.
“I think it really was like a playoff atmosphere,” captain Shea Weber said. “We played hard and found a way to win.”
Pekka Rinne made 39 saves on the night (20 in the third period), including a few that were of the highlight-reel variety. Jonathon Blum and Blake Geoffrion scored meaningful goals to help lift the Preds to two huge points.
Detroit got on the board first, but not before they had a goal waved off. Niklas Kronwall’s power play goal late in the first period was waved off due to Tomas Holmstrom making incidental contact with Rinne at the top of the crease. But after Sergei Kostitsyn committed a penalty with 29 seconds remaining, Dan Cleary scored eight seconds later to give the Wings a 1-0 edge after 20 minutes.
Midway through the second period, Geoffrion scored his first goal at home to tie things up at one. While crashing the net, he directed Patric Hornqvist’s feed past Jimmy Howard at 8:42.
“Especially under the circumstances, it’s a pretty nice way to get the first one (here),” Geoffrion said. “That was pretty special. I didn’t really know what to do! No one was around, so I kept skating.”
Geoffrion’s admitted the goal wasn’t the prettiest he’ll score.
“Horny passed the puck at the net and I just got a stick on it. It kind of deflected off my stick then off my leg. Then I think it hit the goalie and he put it in,” said the rookie forward. “I’ll take ‘em how I get ‘em, right? They don’t ask how, they ask how many.”
Mike Modano and Darren Helm had great opportunities near the end of the period but couldn’t convert. The Preds outshot the Wings 18-9 in the second.
The ice was tilted in Detroit’s direction early in the third period, as they held a 7-1 shot advantage in the first six minutes. But Blum capitalized on the Preds’ second power play chance, jamming home a rebound at 8:12 to give them a 2-1 lead.
“I just went backdoor, kind of roamed around and used my instincts,” Blum said of his goal. “Luckily (the rebound) went on to my stick and I just kind of shoveled it in.”
After the Preds took the lead, Mike Babcock’s club controlled the play. They fired 40 shots at Rinne, who had to stand tall in the final minutes to preserve the lead.
Ryan Suter took a penalty late in the third, but the team killed it off and survived a last-minute surge from the Wings. David Legwand proceeded to bag the game-sealing empty netter with 29 seconds to go.
The 3-1 win was Nashville’s fourth in five meetings against Detroit, giving the Preds their second ever season series win over the Red Wings. They will meet again on April 2nd in Nashville.
“We have so much respect for Detroit,” said Preds coach Barry Trotz. “Our goalies have to be pretty good in every game (against them). There weren’t many games where we held the Detroit Red Wings under 30 shots, so they keep us pretty active.”
With the win, the Preds jumped back into eighth in the Western Conference. Trotz’s gang has no time to celebrate this victory, though, as they have a quick turnaround tomorrow in Buffalo.