NASHVILLE – The Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators both solidified their playoff chances while dealing another crippling blow to the fading Calgary Flames.
Niklas Kronwall, in his first career shootout try, scored the winning goal in the 11th round to give the Red Wings a 1-0 victory over the Predators on Saturday night. Jimmy Howard stopped 10 of Nashville’s 11 shootout attempts to make Kronwall’s goal stand up as the winner.
Detroit has won five straight and eight of nine to move into a more secure playoff position. The Red Wings jumped out of eighth place in the tightly packed Western Conference race.
Nashville lost for just the second time in nine games. The fifth-place Predators are only one point ahead of the surging Red Wings. Both teams were helped earlier Saturday when ninth-place Calgary lost at Boston.
“It was probably the worst result that Calgary could have in the sense that we got a point and Detroit pulled away,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “It really puts them in a tough spot. It’s looking a little bleaker for Calgary.”
Calgary trails Nashville by nine points and Detroit by eight.
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne denied nine of Detroit’s first 10 shootout chances, but couldn’t stop Kronwall’s backhander that slipped between his pads.
“We were all standing and talking, all the D-men,” Kronwall said. “We were kind of running out of forwards to shoot so we knew eventually one of the D-men would get a chance. I happened to get the nod.”
“At that point, it is like flipping a coin,” Rinne said. “Obviously, I was mad right afterward, but it was a solid effort and we picked up one point. I’m sure this will turn out to be a big point.”
After Kronwall’s goal, Howard stopped Francis Bouillon to seal the win. Both goalies were credited with shutouts. Rinne made 38 traditional saves to earn his fourth shutout in March. Howard stopped 33 shots through overtime.
“It’s a struggle, and I don’t know why, for me,” Howard said of shootouts. “I just stayed out there and let those guys make the first move and just tried to stay with the puck.”
Howard entered Saturday’s game having won just three of 10 shootouts this season.
“Shootouts haven’t been our friend this year,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Howie did a great job, save after save after save. His confidence has got to be growing, that’s a good thing for him and it’s a good thing for us.”
The Red Wings have beaten Nashville in four of five matchups. The teams will conclude the season series next Saturday in Detroit.
NOTES: Detroit RW Patrick Eaves played in his 300th NHL game. … Detroit is 7-4-1 in the second game of back-to-back sets. … The Red Wings are 5-9 in shootouts. Nashville is 7-4. … Howard is 3-0 against the Predators this season.