This game was decided early, real early, and it wasn’t a good outcome for the Red Wings.
Nashville scored four goals in the first 8 minutes 8 seconds — three goals from Little Caesars alumnus Rocco Grimaldi during that blitz — leading the Predators to an easy 7-1 victory.
Grimaldi added the final Predators goal, in a memorable, career-high, four-goal evening.
Bobby Ryan (power play) scored the lone Wings’ goal with 55 seconds left in the first period.
“It’s totally unacceptable,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the Wings’ performance. “You can’t give away easy goals like we did.
“We had too many no-shows. Too many guys that didn’t bring their A, or B, or C game, and when you have that many no shows it’s hard. Any way you shake it, it’s totally unacceptable.
“I don’t think we did anything but take total steps backward tonight.”
The Wings’ offense continued to struggle. Ryan’s goal ended a goal-scoring drought of exactly 150 minutes for the Wings, who rarely tested Nashville goalie Juuse Saros with quality chances.
But the true sticking point in this game was defensively. The Wings were too easy on the hard-charging Predators.
“It starts by making sure we check,” Blashill said. “We get concerned when we don’t score and I get it. But this is the result when you don’t check. If that game is 2-1 you are giving yourself a chance to win, but when you’re giving up seven goals you have zero chance.”
Goaltender Thomas Greiss started but was pulled after Grimaldi scored his second goal, at 7:23 in the first period, after stopping only four of seven shots. Calvin Pickard replaced Greiss and stopped 18 of 22 shots.
Greiss, though, had little chance on any of the goals allowed, as the Wings’ team defense in front of him was sloppy.
“We were out of sync,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “We didn’t execute, didn’t have a good start, right away behind the eight-ball, and gave up the three (goals). It wasn’t fair to (goaltender Thomas Greiss) Greiser, some of those breakaways. Not much you can do, it wasn’t fair to him.
“We didn’t have the start we wanted and it went downhill from there.”
Grimaldi, a California transplant who played his youth hockey at Little Caesars, was the Predator who took most advantage of the defensive issues.
Grimaldi got behind Wings defenders to beat Greiss high for his first goal at 5:34, intercepted a bad exchange between Greiss and Patrik Nemeth and beat Greiss from a sharp angle to make it 3-0 at 7:39, then welcomed Pickard with an easy tap-in at 8:08.
Grimaldi finished things off stripping Filip Zadina of the puck and scoring on a breakaway late in the third period.
“It doesn’t feel good, it’s not where we want to be,” Larkin said. “We were proud of our game, a team that showed up every night and worked and competed and we’ve got away from that the last three games. We have to get back to that and stick to our identity of working and competing and sticking together and doing it the right way.
“We have to do it together. Teams go through tough times in a season like this, with eight games in two weeks and find ways to get some wins.”
Eeli Tolvanen (power play), Mikael Granlund and Mathieu Olivier rounded out the Nashville scoring, with goalie Juuse Saros made 20 saves.
The Red Wings (10-20-4) have lost three consecutive games and return home for a two-game series at Little Caesars (Saturday and Sunday, both at 3 p.m.) against Columbus.
What can Blashill do to shake up a team that played two disheartening games in Nashville?
“One option is making lineup changes for certain, and another is to make sure our guys understand, make sure, we come to play every night,” Blashill said. “We’re not a good enough team to come and play at 80 percent, much less 50 percent our best.”
Nashville (16-17-1) has jumped into the playoff chase with victories in five of six games.