Detroit — The Red Wings have played better for several weeks now, since being routed in Nashville on March 25, exactly two weeks ago.
The Wings had looked better defensively and didn’t have many bad stretches within the game.
But Thursday at Little Caesars Arena, the Predators routed the Wings again.
All the Wings’ bad habits resurfaced again Thursday in a game that gradually turned into a rout — a 7-1 Nashville victory, the identical score as the March 25 rout in Nashville.
Defensive breakdowns, leaving too many Nashville players in prime positions to score, and not enough offense led to the Wings’ undoing. Add those things up and the Wings (13-23-6), who for all the better hockey, have still only won one game in the last six (1-3-2).
Darren Helm had the lone Wings’ goal.
Viktor Arvidsson had three goals, and Erik Haula, Nick Cousins, Mikael Granlund and Yakov Trenin added Predators (22-18-1) goals, while red-hot goaltender Juuse Saros made 23 saves.
The Wings welcomed back goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who had missed the last 10 games with a lower-body injury, and forward Sam Gagner (who missed five games), but the returns didn’t provide enough spark.
Bernier stopped 24 shots, but appeared to be lacking his usual timing most of the evening.
If there are playoff teams looking for goaltending depth at Monday’s deadline, it’ll be interesting to see if Bernier becomes an option given his recent injury.
Helm opened the game’s scoring with his third goal.
Another player who could be dealt by Monday’s deadline, Helm went to the net and deflected a shot by Troy Stecher from the point.
But the Predators quickly answered.
Cousins fed Arvidsson going to the net, and Arvidsson, who almost overskated the puck, managed a shot on Berner,
But the puck was never secured by Bernier, and it bounced off defenseman Jon Merrill and into the net at 2:28 — just 42 seconds after Helm’s goal.
The goal appeared to energize the Predators, who began to control the game.
Haula gave the Predators the lead at 6:36 of the second period.
Recent Red Wings tormentor Rocco Grimaldi continued getting on the scoresheet, setting up Haula.
Grimaldi drove down the wing, and centered a puck to Haula alone in the slot. Haula uncorked a wild looking backhand that fooled Bernier enough at 8:50, Haula’s fourth goal, to make it 2-1 Nashville.
Cousins completed the second period Nashville surge.
It was the Predators’ energy line again, this time with Cousins getting the goal.
Colton Sissons fed Cousins the puck between the hashmarks, and Cousins one-timed a shot past Bernier at 16:10, Cousins’ fourth goal.
The Predators, who won six of the eight games against the Wings, didn’t slow down in te final 20 minutes.
Granlund scored his 10th goal at 7:06 to push the lead to 4-1.
Granlund carried the puck into the zone, and appeared to hesitate shooting for a split-second that may have been just enough to throw off Bernier.
Then it was Arvidsson’s turn to complete his third career hat trick.
Arvidsson made it 5-1 with his seventh goal at the 10 minute mark.
Arvidsson took a pass, skated down on a 2-on-1 rush, and unleashed a shot from the dot that Bernier was slow to react on.
Arvidsson completed Nashville’s three goal in four minute surge with his eighth goal and third of the evening, on the penalty shot at 11:06.
And it will sure to be on highlight films, with Arvidsson displaying nifty stick stills to fool Bernier.
Trenin capped the Predators scoring, finally, with his third goal at 15:55, beating Bernier on a drive to the net.