The best way to beat the Detroit Red Wings is to take a page or two out of their playbook.
That’s exactly what the Nashville Predators did Tuesday night as they opened with three first-period goals and held on for a 4-2 win over their Central Division rivals. The Predators are 2-1-1 against the Red Wings. They will meet four more times this season.
The Predators’ three goals came on their first four shots, prompting Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to pull goaltender Chris Osgood at the 8:49 mark. James Howard played the rest of the way allowing only one goal on 19 shots.
“We wanted to get off to a good start and come at them a little bit,” said Predators coach Barry Trotz. “I thought we did that. We forechecked well in the first period. We had good gaps and executed off of the transition really well. We created a couple of turnovers and played a little bit of Detroit hockey by using our transition to find the back of the net a couple of times.
“Detroit is best at creating offense off of the rush because they drive to the net so well. They create offense on their power play. They are a high execution team.”
Right wing Alexander Radulov scored the first and fourth goals for the Predators. Also scoring were J.P. Dumont and Martin Erat. Dumont and Erat also each added an assist.
“We set the tempo and played physical early,” Radulov said. “We are trying to play simple. We are getting the puck to the net and trying to score on rebounds.
“J.P and [Jason Arnott] are good players. When you pass it to them you have to get ready and get open because 90 percent of the time you are going to get the puck back from them right away.”
The line of Radulov, Dumont and Arnott accounted for three goals and three assists. In their last 21 games they have combined for 29 goals and 71 points At least one of the three has been part of 37 of 67 goals scored during the 21-game stretch.
“It was a big first period,” Dumont said. “We used our speed. We pressured them and created some turnovers and capitalized on them.
“Every line has realized it is do or die for us. We all want to make the big play or score the big goal. Every line is going, which makes it easier for everybody. We are a really good team when we all play together. When you keep your head up and stay confident good things are going to happen.”
Trotz thought Radulov, Dumont and Arnott were at the top of their game.
“When they are paying attention to playing a real head’s up game…a give-and-go pro game instead of one-on-one situations…they have a lot of good pieces,” Trotz said. “They made some great plays off of the transition and rush.”
The Predators were outshot 14-10 in the first period and 42-23 for the game. They held the Red Wings scoreless in both the first and third periods. Centers Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk each scored power-play goals in the second period for the Red Wings.
Predators goaltender Chris Mason expected the Red Wings to test him with a large number of shots. Mason is 7-3-2 in his last 12 games.
“They shoot everything and they go to the net,” Mason said. “They work extremely hard. They bang away. You don’t even see half of their shots because they have guys standing in front of you.
“You always have to be ready. In a way that is good because you know they are going to shoot it.”
Despite being given a three-goal lead, Mason did not let his guard down until the final buzzer had sounded. The Red Wings outshot the Predators 12-7 but neither could find the net in the third.
“I’ve watched a lot of Detroit’s games,” Mason said. “We knew they were going to be coming at us. In the third period no lead is safe with Detroit because they don’t panic and stick to their game plan. We killed off a couple of penalties in the third period which was huge and we held on.”
The Predators are back home Thursday night to face the Chicago Blackhawks, another Central Division foe, at 7.