NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Nashville Predators have lost their share of scorers to injuries to this season. Now they’re starting to get some very timely goals from a couple of top rookies.
Jonathon Blum scored a power-play goal at 8:12 of the third period, and the Predators beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Saturday night for their fourth victory in five games.
Fellow rookie Blake Geoffrion also scored and David Legwand had an empty-net goal with 28.4 seconds left. Patric Hornqvist had two assists for Nashville, which moved back into eighth place in the tightly bunched Western Conference.
“Obviously, you hope for that,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “You never really know. It’s good to see. We’ve got some great young players. We always draft well, and it’s good to see them being so successful early in their career.”
Steve Sullivan is out with an injury, and Matthew Lombardi, Marcel Goc, Cal O’Reilly and Francis Bouillon are on the injured list. Nashville came in with 292 man-games lost to injury, the third-highest total in team history.
“Everybody’s digging in, and we’re finding ways and everybody’s contributing,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “You’d ask people to step up, play a little bit out of their element but give what they have and play to their potential a little bit more. … We’re hanging in there.”
The Predators lead the season series 4-1 with one game remaining with Detroit. But there is no time to enjoy moving back into eighth place because Nashville will play at post-season-contending Buffalo on Sunday.
“We’ve got to win again,” Weber said. “It’s a huge win for us, big rivalry game against Detroit. But we’ve got to move past it, and we’ve got a big game against Buffalo, who’s fighting for their playoff lives, as well.”
Dan Cleary scored for the Red Wings, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Detroit played without star forward Pavel Datsyuk, who was injured in Thursday night’s win over Columbus. Johan Franzen also was scratched.
“We did have a shorter lineup than we usually have, but I thought we battled throughout the whole game,” defenceman Niklas Lidstrom said. “They got the winning goal on their power play, and we had our chances late on the power play we had, as well. We couldn’t capitalize on it.”
Detroit led 1-0 after the first period and could have been up 2-0, but an apparent goal by Niklas Kronwall was waved off. Kronwall’s shot got past Pekka Rinne, but goaltender interference was called on Tomas Holmstrom, who was planted in front.
“The ref said he was in the paint, but it sure didn’t look like that when you saw it on the big screen,” Lidstrom said.
Nashville killed that penalty, but Sergei Kostitsyn was then penalized for elbowing Valtteri Filppula, who was crushed into him by Weber from the backside. Henrik Zetterberg carried the puck along the back boards and passed it to Cleary who tapped in his 23rd goal.
The Predators went on the offensive in the second period, outshooting Detroit 18-9. Geoffrion, the first fourth-generation NHL player, tied it 1-1 at 8:42 when he tipped in his third this season from in front off an assist from Patric Hornqvist. Rinne also got lucky when Mike Modano hit the crossbar on a 2-on-1 break with 1:18 left in the period.
“We had some glorious chances, just like they did,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Modano hit the crossbar on a great 2-on-1, we had a real good power play right at the end of the game where we had a great opportunity, and Rinne made the save. So give them credit.”
It stayed tied until Zetterberg tripped Shane O’Brien as he went to the net, giving the Predators a man advantage at 7:04 of the third. Blum scored his third off the rebound of Hornqvist’s shot for a rare power-play goal for Nashville, ranked 27th in the NHL.
“It kind of caught me off-guard,” Blum said. “I wasn’t ready. My stick wasn’t. Luckily it went on my stick, and I just kind of shovelled it in.”
Rinne also helped kill a power play at 16:07. Detroit took a timeout with 37.1 seconds left, before Legwand sealed the victory with 28.4 seconds left.
“At the end there, pucks were bouncing everywhere and you know I got lucky there a few times,” Rinne said. “Sometimes you get the breaks.”
Notes: Geoffrion’s goal was his first at home since being called up from the AHL. … Predators forward Jordin Tootoo played in his 400th NHL game. … Kostitsyn had an assist on Blum’s goal, giving him three goals and three assists in five games against Detroit this season. … Nashville has killed 20 of Detroit’s last 22 power plays in the series. … Nashville had its 13th sellout this season.