The Nashville Predators played a solid 40 minutes. The only problem was the Detroit Red Wings had a 20-minute head start.
Despite playing Sunday night on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Red Wings started out strong in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. The Predators got back on track in the second and third periods, but fell 2-1 to their Central Division rival Monday night at the Sommet Center.
“Detroit is a high-execution team,” said Predators coach Barry Trotz. “They are going to feast off of your mistakes. They execute as a high level. You can’t make as many mistakes as we made in the first period. I didn’t think our structure was very good.
“When people talk about Detroit, they talk about their offense. But what separates them is that they are good defensively. You give them a two-goal lead and it is a big mountain to climb.”
The Red Wings are 7-0-1 since losing 3-2 to the Predators here on Thanksgiving night. All three games have been decided by one goal.
“I thought in the second and third periods we got back to our game and what we do well,” said Trotz. “We had numerous chances, outstanding zone time and pressure at their net. If we had gotten a loose puck we would have been talking about overtime or a shootout.”
The Predators close out their four-game homestand Thursday night at 7 when the Colorado Avalanche come to town. As part of their preparation the Predators expect to hear a lot about playing an entire 60 minutes.
Predators left wing Martin Gelinas scored the lone goal for the Predators with 24 seconds left in the second period. It was the third short-handed goal of the season for the Predators. All three of their short-handed goals have been scored in the last five games.
Gelinas scored when center David Legwand lost control of the puck on a breakaway. Gelinas, skating close behind Legwand, controlled the loose puck and shot it between the leg pads of Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood as he was laying on his side in front of the net.
“I’ve had a lot of ugly goals,” Gelinas said. “We had a little bit of a rough start and it was tough to come back. When we got down two goals it was nice to get one at the end, but we had a lot of chances and couldn’t buy another one.”
Gelinas, the most veteran player on the Predators’ roster, thinks the older players have to come through in big games. He has three goals and one assist in his last seven games.
“Whenever you play a team like Detroit or Anaheim you want to show your stuff and really shine,” Gelinas said. “These games are like playoff games. They are battling to stay on top and we are battling to climb the ladder.”
The Predators got the short-handed goal, but failed to score on seven power-play attempts. The Predators’ penalty killers stopped Detroit on all six of its power-play tries.
“We had a lot of chances,” Trotz said. “We had a couple of power plays with two minutes of zone time, but we couldn’t find the back of the net. We are getting chances so that means we have a chance to score. If we stay with it they will come in bunches.
“Detroit has the No. 2 power play and they didn’t generate a whole lot. We want to put pressure on the goaltender. Even if you aren’t scoring you want to put pressure on the goalie and the defense. I thought did a pretty good job of that for the most part.”
Dan Ellis got the start in goal for the Predators. He turned back 33 shots, but was beaten on a penalty shot by Detroit center Valterri Filppula. Nashville’s Jerred Smithson tripped Filppula as he skated toward the goal.
Ellis also pointed to the slow start for the Predators, who were outshot 17-9 in the first period.
“Detroit earns everything that it gets and we gave them a little bit of an easy first period,” Ellis said. “We didn’t put up as much of a fight as we would have liked to. They will pick you apart if you are not ready for them.”
Ellis started when Chris Mason was unable to play due to a bout with what appears to be the flu. Goaltender Pekka Rinne was recalled as an emergency replacement, but he had four flights cancelled in Chicago and never arrived in Nashville.
“It was an interesting day with the goalies,” Trotz said. “Chris was very sick. When Pekka didn’t make it we had to call Mase back in to sit in the dressing room during the game.”
Also out with the same flu-like problems is left wing Darcy Hordichuk.
“We have a flu bug or virus we are dealing with right now,” Trotz said. “We are not quite sure.”