NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Todd Bertuzzi called it just a hockey play. Goaltender Jimmy Howard loved seeing Bertuzzi stick up for his teammates, and Detroit coach Mike Babcock saw the big forward dropping the gloves with Predators defenceman Shea Weber as taking care of something “unacceptable.”
As good as squaring off with Weber might have felt, the Red Wings took something even better back home to Detroit: Home-ice advantage.
Ian White and Cory Emmerton scored in the first period, and the Red Wings got the best revenge against the Predators with a 3-2 victory Friday night that evened the first-round series 1-1. Game 3 is Sunday in Detroit.
“We’ll take the best-of-five and go back to our building and get out of here,” Babcock said. “We’ll be a better hockey club. This is a good win for our team. We’ll take a step now.”
Johan Franzen also scored, and Howard made 24 saves as Bertuzzi gave the Red Wings their own answer for Weber being fined only $2,500 for smashing Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass at the end of Game 1 on Wednesday night. Bertuzzi dropped the gloves with Weber 1:36 into the game and landed a good punch before they were separated.
“I just thought that the incident the other night wasn’t a part of hockey,” Babcock said. “I haven’t seen it since junior hockey, and I thought it was unacceptable. And I think sometimes when things don’t get looked after, you have to look after it yourself and I didn’t think things were looked after at all.”
Bertuzzi said he had to stick up for his teammates, and it didn’t hurt that he took Weber off the ice for Nashville’s first man advantage.
“The game was more important, and it was good to get a win in here,” Bertuzzi said. “They played us hard at the end.”
Weber understood Bertuzzi was supporting his teammates.
“I’m sure anyone in here would do the same thing if stuff happened,” Weber said.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz considers the incident closed now.
“That’s hockey,” Trotz said. “Shea’s a big boy. He takes care of himself.”
Weber and Andrei Kostitsyn scored for Nashville, which missed a chance for its first 2-0 series lead in its seventh post-season. The Predators had yet another sold-out crowd, yet the NHL’s best power play in the regular season is 0 of 12 in the series.
“We didn’t expect it to be a short series,” Trotz said. “So they’ve got a good team, we’ve got a good team, and we’re going toe to toe. We’re OK with that.”
Weber gave the Predators a chance with his goal with 4:44 left, scoring on a backhander from the slot. But that was it as the Red Wings, who set an NHL record this season by winning 23 straight at Joe Louis Arena, grabbed home-ice advantage.
“It’s very nice,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s an important game for us tonight. We don’t want to be down 2-nothing heading home and feeling a lot better about ourselves and the way we played tonight tied this series up. We know it’s going to be a tough couple games in Detroit. Now we have to refocus for Sunday.”
The Predators cut down their penalties from the first game with only two aside from Weber’s fighting major. They also outshot and outhit the Red Wings while holding them to the fewest shots Detroit has ever taken against Nashville in the post-season with 17. Howard had help with his teammates blocking 16 shots.
“And those aren’t muffins coming in from the top either,” Howard said. “Guys are standing in there and taking them so I have to tip my hat to the guys in front of me.”
Pekka Rinne, who made 35 saves in the opening victory for Nashville, gave up three goals on the first 10 shots he faced.
Nashville missed a couple chances off the post, including after Weber’s goal on a shot by Kostitsyn. Howard had a nice pad save on Alexander Radulov on Nashville’s first man advantage.
The Red Wings didn’t take a shot until Pavel Datsyuk got the puck off a turnover and had a breakaway attempt at 5:00. Rinne easily caught the puck.
White put Detroit up 1-0—the Red Wings’ first lead of the series—at 8:25 of the first when he got the puck from Jiri Hudler and skated up and wristed the puck from just inside the faceoff circle. The Predators had some good chances only to see Howard stop them.
Then the Red Wings blocked a shot by Nashville defenceman Kevin Klein, and Emmerton grabbed the puck and skated up the left side before beating Rinne over his stick with a wrister at 15:33.
The Predators had the NHL’s best power play in the regular season, but they have yet to score against Detroit in this series. They went 0 of 6 in Game 1, then missed with 30 seconds on their second 5-on-3 of the series. Kostitsyn pulled Nashville to 2-1 with a wrister through traffic at 9:01 of the second.
Trotz said his Predators had great chances, including three open nets, only to miss. Asked about what they needed to do next, Trotz had a question of his own.
“Other than scoring?” Trotz said.
Detroit answered 56 seconds later when Brad Stuart’s shot at the net deflected off Franzen’s skate, putting the Red Wings back up 3-1.
Notes: Detroit previously had 26 shots against Nashville in the 2004 and 2008 playoffs. … Counting the 12 penalties killed in the first two games, the Red Wings have killed 37 straight. … The Red Wings improved to 9-3 in Game 2 of the first-round series since 2000. They also have outscored opponents 45-29 in those games. … Nashville is 2-6 in Game 2 in the post-season. … Country star Vince Gill sat behind Howard in the first and third periods. He had a shirt saying “Bertuzzi is a sissy” under his Predators sweater.