Brothers hook up to power Predators to victory over Detroit

Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 11:49pm

The Nashville Predators figured out what had been missing from their power play in recent games.

It was a "Kostitsyn Konnection."

Andrei Kostitsyn scored twice with the man-advantage in the Predators’ 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena. Both times his younger brother, Sergei Kostitsyn, made the pass that set him up for the goal.

With the victory, Nashville, which has played one fewer game, closed to within four points of Detroit for fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

“Who needs the Sedins when we’ve got the Kostitsyns?” left wing Colin Wilson joked. “It’s pretty fun. Those two, they’re obviously close, being brothers. I’m sure they know each others tendencies.”

The Predators had gone five straight games without a power-play goal before the elder Kostitsyn put them ahead to stay with 8:01 to play in the first period. That matched the longest such drought, in terms of games, this season.

They also went five straight in late December. That one included 16 opportunities, twice as many as this stretch. They broke that slump with four conversions — twice as many as this time — in a victory over Carolina on Jan. 7.

“It was good, obviously,” center David Legwand, who matched his career-high with three assists, said. “We get a couple on the power play and they don’t get any [in four chances], we’ll take that.”

Since Andrei was acquired in a trade with Montreal on Feb. 27, the brothers have not spent much time on the ice together. Each has played left wing on one of the team’s top two lines — Sergei on the first with Mike Fisher and Martin Erat, and Andrei on the second with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist.

Even their separation was helpful at one point against the Red Wings, who were without some of their top players including center Pavel Datsyuk, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and goalie Jimmy Howard.

“It’s funny because Sergei broke his stick,” Wilson said. “When he came back to the bench, they had a stick ready for him but he just took Andrei’s. I’m sure he’s used to playing with that, and I’m sure their [sticks] are quite a bit alike.”

They have played together on one of the power play units, though, and in this game they each used their respective sticks to good advantage in those situations.

Their first hookup came when Sergei delivered a one-touch pass to Andrei, who was positioned in front of the net with his back to goalie Joey MacDonald. Andrei wheeled to his right and slid the puck into the net before MacDonald could move to that side.

Their second goal came 4:34 into the third period. On that one, Sergei held the puck and waited for a Red Wings defender to turn his head. As soon as that happened, Sergei fired a pass across the front of the goal to Andrei, who stuffed the puck into the open side.

“We played together on the power play in Montreal too, but I don’t think we read each other any better because we’re brothers,” Sergei Kostitsyn said. “It’s really nice to assist on Andrei’s goals.”

Pekka Rinne, who extended his franchise record with his 38th victory of the season, vouched for the fact that those two goals were not the result of any sort of fraternal understanding. They had more to do with preparation.

The Nashville goalie, it turns out, had seen some of those very moves a day earlier in practice when he was the one forced to defend the Kostitsyns.

“It’s always fun to see when guys are working on those plays in practice and then actually execute those plays in the game,” Rinne said. “They go through things on the board and stuff like that too. They work on those plays.

“You can tell they have a lot of chemistry and they know how each other plays.”

Briefly

• Detroit had 18 shots in the third period, one fewer than it had in the first two periods combined and two fewer than Nashville had in the entire contest.

“We have to clean that up,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “We have to be better than that. That’s too many with that game at risk.

• Hornqvist regained the team lead in goals with his 21st of the season, which gave Nashville an early 1-0 lead. It was the fourth straight game either he or Mike Fisher (20 goals) has scored.

• Earlier Saturday the Predators signed forward Jack MacLellan, who recently completed his college career at Brown University. The first-team All-Ivy selection who had 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) in 121 career games agreed to a one-year entry-level contract.

He will remain with Nashville throughout the remainder of the regular season and effectively serve as an extra practice player.

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