NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Playing the Detroit Red Wings usually brings out the best in the Nashville Predators. This time, the first meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals helped the Predators find their offence once again.
Defenceman Kevin Klein scored a power-play goal, Vern Fiddler added a goal late in the second period, and the Predators held off Detroit 3-2 on Friday night. Defenceman Greg Zanon also scored, Martin Erat had two assists, and Dan Ellis stopped 38 shots in the Predators' best scoring night since Dec. 13.
Nashville came in offensively challenged after managing just 22 goals over the past 13 games and going 2-2-1 over the past five.
"We've been struggling on our power play lately, and I think that goal was as big as any goal tonight," Fiddler said. "Another goal from Zanon, plus we played really well and we got the lead, and it helped."
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said a lot of teams ramp up for the defending Stanley Cup champs.
"It has been a tough stretch for us ... in terms of goal scoring lately and if we weren't hitting it off the post, we were hitting it off the crest. Tonight we went to the net hard, and we got rewarded for that. That's how you score in this league. That's how Detroit scores," Trotz said.
Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson scored for Detroit, which came in having won eight of 10.
Nashville always plays the Red Wings tough, especially so in the teams' first meeting since Detroit needed six games to knock the Predators out of the playoffs last spring. The Predators also had only the second sellout crowd of the season.
"Anytime you play a team you beat out the year before in the playoffs, especially the first one, it is always going to be a real competitive game," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Detroit came in ranked second in the NHL with the man advantage. The Red Wings went 0-for-3 on the power play, including the final 1:28 with Ty Conklin pulled for the extra attacker. Nashville has killed 19 consecutive penalties and 37 of 40.
It didn't help that the Red Wings lost defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom early in the second when he took a puck off his ankle. Babcock said an X-ray was negative but Lidstrom couldn't return.
"It is certainly going to hurt any lineup," Conklin said. "You got the best defenceman in the world your team is going to notice him."
Detroit nearly blew open the game in the opening minutes as Johan Franzen collected a loose puck during a changeover and nearly flipped it past Ellis.
But the Predators started getting the puck on net on their lone power play in the first period. They grabbed a 1-0 lead as Zanon scored on a slap shot off Radek Bonk's win on the faceoff just after the man advantage ended, beating Conklin past his outstretched left skate at 9:29.
Cleary tied it at 14:04 when he skated up the right halfboards and flipped the puck top shelf past Ellis.
The Nashville goalie, who had his franchise-record shutout streak ended last March by the Red Wings, had the save of the night in the middle of a power play in the second. Pavel Datsyuk, who already had an assist on Cleary's goal, had a short-handed breakaway, and Ellis knocked the puck away.
"We got some momentum off that save," Trotz said.
The Predators then went up about a half minute later as Klein scored his third goal of the season at 13:24 of the second on a slap shot after Rich Peverley found him on the outer edge of the right circle near the slot.
Nashville went up 3-1 Fiddler's goal at 18:52. Erat had the puck behind the net and passed out to Fiddler in front, who then snapped it past Conklin for his sixth this season. Fiddler said the emotions are probably higher when playing the Red Wings.
"There are a lot more fans in the building and when the fans get going I think it creates a lot of emotion," he said.
Samuelsson pulled Detroit within a goal by scoring his seventh on a slap shot near the left corner at 3:00 of the third.
Notes: This was the sixth time Nashville got two or more goals from its defenceman, but it was the first goal by a defenseman since Dec. 8. The Predators improved to 5-1 in those games. ... Nashville improved to 9-1-0 when leading after two periods. Detroit is 5-7 when trailing after two. ... With an assist on Detroit's opening goal, Datsyuk has 12 points in a streak of six games. ... Jiri Hudler has 99 career points after his assist on Cleary's goal.