The last time the Red Wings took the ice, they were shellacked by a team that will be drafting in the first ten picks of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft to the tune of 10-3. Tonight, they found themselves down 3-0 to a team they had lost four straight to, and hadn’t beaten since October. Nothing was going right for them. They could have packed it in and started thinking ahead to tomorrow’s match-up with the Wild. But boy am I glad they didn’t!
Red Wings 4 Predators 3 (OT)
After allowing the third Predators goal, the only one you could really fault Jimmy Howard on, Mike Babcock called a time out.
Instead of addressing a certain group of players, he called the entire team together in a huddle in front of the bench. He didn’t even use his entire 30 seconds, sending the players away after a short speech. I’m not sure what he told them, but whatever it is they should bottle it and sell it, because it could not have worked much better.
The Wings scored twice in a 71 second span and brought the game back within reach. The first was scored by Jakub Kindl, marking his second career tally. He jumped up and picked off a Nashville clearing attempt and sent a wrist shot high and past Rinne.
Abdelkader notched the second when he tipped in Brad Stuart’s point shot.
A great game by Abdelkader only got better from that point on, as he made his presence felt on every shift. He increased his team leading hit totals by introducing his shoulder to whatever unfortunate Predators happened to skate near him with the puck.
It was only fitting that it was he who tied the score at three in the third period, on a set up from Todd Bertuzzi, who had himself an interesting night as well.
He twice fought fellow former Canuck Shane O’Brien, and both times scored the win and the takedown. Following the second fight, he went to the dressing room for repairs, but came back no worse for the wear.
His battles with O’Brien allowed the Wings more room on the ice, as he is one of the more physically intimidating Preds defenders along with Shea Weber.
The game had a playoff flavor to it, with many big hits, shoving matches and an all around up-tempo style of play. The Predators currently reside in 5th, but with the teams behind them having games in hand, they could likely fall to the 7th seed and wind up playing the Wings in the first round of the playoffs. What an epic series that would be, given the recent battles between the teams.
The Wings needed this game in more ways than you can imagine. They’ve battled inconsistency all year long, but on their recent 5 game homestand, it all came crashing down on them.
They spotted the Penguins 4 goals before coming back and making a game out of it.
They took part in a great game with the NHL best Canucks.
They beat the Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada without playing their best game.
The lost to the Blackhawks in OT after a lackluster first period put them behind the 8 ball.
Then the disaster against the Blues.
The fact that it was against the Predators, who have had their number all year, makes it even more sweet.
The Wings won’t have long to bask in the glow of today’s win, as they play Minnesota at home tomorrow at 5 pm.
For tonight, however, they can be happy with their efforts. It was a beautifully played game, despite a great deal of odds against them.
I’m going to take a day off of ref bashing, because I feel like I’ve done enough of that in the last couple of game recaps. The Wings battled through every obstacle put in their path tonight, be they Predator, official or injury-related (as if the Wings needed more adversity, Nik Kronwall was a late scratch with a sore shoulder). If you followed my live blog on Twitter, you know how I felt about the officiating today, and we’ll leave it at that.
Oh, and by the way…20 straight years of Red Wings playoff hockey…the active leaders among all four professional North American sports. Congratulations to the entire organization.
The Off Wing View’s Three Stars
3. Jimmy Howard 31 saves – That save on Joel Ward in the third period alone was worth a star. You know which one I’m talking about. That saved the game, keeping it at 3-3 and allowing the Wings to win it in overtime.
2. Danny Cleary GWG – Cleary isn’t the biggest guy in the world but he plays with a reckless disregard for his own safety. He was a demon on the forecheck today, separating bodies from pucks and drawing penalties. The fact that he chipped in with the game-winner is icing on the cake.
1. Justin Abdelkader 2G, 5 Hits – If Cleary’s goal was icing, Abdelkader baked the cake. He was a monster tonight. He was only credited with five hits, but that stat is always subjective to the home scorekeeper. I remember twice that many, at least. Great way to build off his second star performance for the month of March.