Five minutes into the third period with his team down 4-1, Detroit Red Wings forward Dan Cleary found himself with a wide open net. Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne was down and out of the play. It looked like a sure goal to get the Red Wings back in the game.
With Detroit these days, nothing is a given.
Cleary missed the wide open net, yet another strange play in the Red Wings’ recent funk as Detroit dropped a 4-1 decision to Nashville on Wednesday.
Rinne stood tall again for the Predators, stopping 34 shots after blanking Detroit 3-0 on Saturday. Martin Erat, David Legwand, Colin Wilson and Sergei Kostitsyn scored for Nashville, which moved within five points of the Central Division-leading Red Wings.
Wings goalie Jimmy Howard didn’t get much help from his team, allowing four goals on 16 shots. Howard was pulled after Kostitsyn banged home a power play goal midway through the second to put Nashville up 4-0, and was replaced by Joey MacDonald. MacDonald stopped all 14 shots he faced in relief.
Ironically, Ruslan Salei scored the lone goal for Detroit, his first since signing a one-year deal with the club before the season.
Erat got things going early, firing a laser past Howard three minutes into the game after Nashville turned Jakub Kindl’s outlet pass at center ice into an odd-man rush the other way.
More Nashville pressure with five minutes to go in the period had the Red Wings scrambling to clear the zone, ending with Legwand easily firing the puck in over a sprawled Howard.
Nashville kept things going in the second. Detroit turned the puck over behind its net a minute into the frame, allowing Kostitsyn to find Wilson open in front for a shot that Howard stopped, but Wilson banged home his own rebound to make it 3-0.
After Kotstitsyn scored to make it 4-0, Detroit finally got some life when Salei tipped in Henrik Zetterberg’s centering pass for his first goal as a Red Wing. It was Detroit’s first goal against Rinne since Oct. 30, a 5-2 Detroit win.