DETROIT – Usually a set-up man, Pavel Datsyuk has suddenly turned into quite a goal scorer.
Datsyuk had two goals and an assist to lift the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.
Datsyuk has six goals and five assists. Not the standard numbers for a player with career totals of 204 goals and 398 assists. Datsyuk is known to dazzle more with creative puck handling and slick passes.
“He was outstanding tonight again. It’s fun to see that he got two goals,” Datsyuk’s linemate Henrik Zetterberg said. “He had a lot of chances. I’m happy for him and it’s fun to play with him.”
Datsyuk downplayed his performance.
“This is not my fun. It’s team fun and line fun together,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much fun I have, I’m happy to beat a good team.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock certainly had fun watching Datsyuk.
“I thought Pav was real good,” he said. “He wasn’t just stickhandling and entertaining the crowd, he took the puck to the net and made good things happen.”
Brad Stuart, Tomas Holmstrom and Patrick Eaves also scored for the Red Wings. Ruslan Salei and Nicklas Lidstrom each had two assists, and Chris Osgood made 23 saves in his 398th career win.
“I don’t think we played good for 60 minutes,” Zetterberg said. “They had a few periods in the game where they were spending a lot of time in our end and Ozzie (Osgood) came up huge and made some real good saves.”
Joel Ward, Kevin Klein had goals for Nashville, which has dropped two straight in regulation after earning at least one point in each of the first eight games this season. Pekka Rinne stopped 23 shots.
“We had some opportunities, just came up short,” Ward said.
The Predators were stung by Detroit goals in the last two minutes of the first and second periods. Stuart’s goal came in the first frame, and Datsyuk’s second was scored in the second.
“To play well the whole period and then to give up a goal in the last three-four minutes is a real letdown,” Klein said.
Datsyuk gave Detroit a 1-0 lead with 7:49 left in the opening period when his shot from the right circle caught Rinne down and out of position. Stuart’s first of the season made it 2-0 with 1:36 remaining in the frame. The usually defensive-minded defenceman made a rare trip deep into the offensive zone and poked in a loose puck from just outside the crease.
Ward cut the Predators’ deficit to 2-1 at 7:49 of the second, beating Osgood between the pads from the slot for his second goal.
Datsyuk’s second of the night of the season restored Detroit’s two-goal edge with 1:18 left in the second period. He powered his way out of the right corner, beating forward Nick Spaling, went to the net and stuffed the puck past Rinne.
“It just happened,” Datsyuk said. “I had good luck and I’m happy to have a little bit of luck and I go to net and just jammed and the puck goes through.”
When told Babcock was pleased to see him go to the net, Datsyuk responded: “So far I do it one time. Maybe he likes it.”
Holmstrom’s power-play goal 4:18 into the third made it 4-1. Holmstrom tipped in Lidstrom’s shot from right point for his third goal. Eaves added his second 2:08 later, and Klein finished the scoring with 9:39 left.
Notes: Detroit G Jimmy Howard missed his second game because of back spasms. … Red Wings F Justin Abdelkader made his season debut after missing the first eight games because of a rib injury. RW Jiri Hudler was scratched to make room for Abdelkader, who replaced Hudler on the struggling third line with Mike Modano and Dan Cleary. Babcock said the line was better Saturday night. … Nashville F Linus Klasen, recalled from Milwaukee (AHL) on Friday, was in the lineup.