Kyle Calder had a goal and two assists as Detroit moved to within a point of NHL-leading Nashville with a 5-2 win Tuesday night.
The teams meet again Wednesday night in Detroit, where the Red Wings can move ahead of the Predators in the Central Division, the Western Conference and take over the overall lead in the chase for the President’s Trophy.
“They’re a real good team, we’re a real good team,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We had the upper hand tonight.
“We’ve got to go back and try to do the same. It’s so evenly matched just a fine line turns the game. We were fortunate tonight.”
The Predators weren’t happy at having lost the chance to pad their margin.
“They came in and stole two points here,” Predators centre Jason Arnott said. “We have to go back there and play just as well.
“We have to be a little bit better and put pucks in the net (Wednesday). Other than that, we’ve got to try for two points.”
This is the first time this season the road team has won in the series, but the Red Wings have yet to lose to the Predators in Nashville during the month of March since the team entered the league. They improved to 5-0-1 in that stretch.
“The two points are what we’re more concerned about right now,” Calder said. “They’re a great team over there, and this was a big game for us.”
Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filippula each scored a goal and had an assist, and Robert Lang and Kirk Maltby also scored for Detroit, which has a game in hand on Nashville.
Alexander Radulov and Martin Erat each scored power-play goals for Nashville.
Nashville came in having earned at least a point in 10 straight games, a streak Detroit also had before a regulation loss to Boston on Sunday. The Predators also have 98 points, one more than the Red Wings.
Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun said the Predators must have short memories.
“We have to be better. Our coverage needs to be a lot better. It’s that simple,” he said.
The Red Wings gave Nashville every opportunity to get back into the game after Hudler scored his 12th at 1:24 of the third for a 3-1 lead.
Detroit gave Nashville a 5-on-3, and Erat scored eight seconds later off a rebound of Shea Weber’s shot from the slot to pull the Predators to within 3-2 at 5:07.
The Predators finished 2-of-8 with the man advantage, but Detroit killed off three power plays in the final 15 minutes. Calder scored his ninth with two minutes left off Nashville defenceman Marek Zidlicky’s skate, his first since Feb. 27 in his first game after being picked up in a trade from Chicago.
Filippula added an unassisted goal with 81 seconds left to seal the victory.
Detroit came limping in with Henrik Zetterberg missing his seventh game because of an inflamed disc in his back. Forward Daniel Cleary missed his eighth, and defenceman Danny Markov also was out for his third.
The Predators didn’t have Peter Forsberg (upper body injury) for a fourth game. Steve Sullivan missed his ninth with his own back problem, while Scott Hartnell (foot) and Scott Nichol (broken thumb) aren’t expected back for at least a couple more weeks.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz tried to send a message from the start, giving Jordin Tootoo – the Predators’ leader with 94 penalty minutes – a rare start. It worked, as Tootoo took two shots in seven shifts and aggravated Mathieu Schneider into high-sticking him near the Nashville bench.
But Detroit still led 1-0 on Robert Lang’s 18th goal at 1:39.
Radulov tied it with his power-play goal off a nice cross-ice pass from David Legwand at 7:02. The Predators outshot Detroit 13-4 in the first period.
The Red Wings took over in the second period. Maltby put Detroit up to stay at 4:30 with his fourth goal this season after Kris Draper passed to him from behind the net.
Not even tossing five catfish on to the ice for good luck – a play on Detroit’s famous octopus toss – helped the Predators. They got Erat’s goal to pull close, but he had to be helped off the ice after colliding with Arnott late in the third.
Notes: Detroit is 3-10 in the second of back-to-back games so far this season. The Predators are 13-2-2 in such games. … Nashville defenceman Ryan Suter tied his career-high by skating in his 71st game this season, which is what he played in 2005-06. Only Suter, Paul Kariya and J.P. Dumont haven’t missed a game this season for Nashville. … Detroit improved to 30-4-2 when scoring first. … Trotz said he hopes Forsberg can return Saturday against Dallas.