If this weekend was any sort of measuring stick, playing against two tough, playoff-caliber teams, the Red Wings came up a little bit short.
Saturday it was the Nashville Predators who withstood a good Wings road game, and defeated the Red Wings 4-1 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
“We fought hard, played a physical game, we matched their intensity and physicality,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “It’s just execution on some chances we had and some breakdowns in our end. That’s the difference in the game. It’s a good hockey team over there, they weren’t giving us anything easy.”
The Wings (18-18-6) earned one out of four possible points, having lost Friday in overtime to Dallas.
“We have to find ways to win,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “When we’re in that position, we have to find ways against good teams on the road.”
The Wings struggled to generate offense. They were scoreless on four power-play attempts, and Adam Erne supplied the only goal.
Erne ended a 20-game goalless drought, scoring on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box at 18:51 of the second period. Tyler Bertuzzi found Erne alone ahead of the field, and Erne buried his fourth goal past goaltender Juuse Saros.
It was a big goal, cutting Nashville’s lead to 2-1, after the Predators completely changed the complexion of a game. Nick Cousins (power play) and Matt Duchene gave Nashville a 2-0 lead with goals 1:35 apart, quickly stinging the Wings.
But Nashville regained the two-goal lead when Filip Forsberg scored his 20th goal, putting in a backhand rebound at 10:44 of the third period.
“It was a close game, kind of ebbed back and forth a little bit,” Blashill said. “It was a fairly close game. We had done a pretty good job defending. We didn’t create a bunch. They made a couple plays around the net and we didn’t.”
Forsberg’s goal came shortly after a Wings’ power play was negated on a Michael Rasmussen penalty.
“Momentum is going to go up and down during a hockey season,” Staal said. “You have to take advantage of it when you have it. We weren’t able to hurt them when we had it. Erne’s goal got us going a little bit and it would have been good to pump another one there. Penalties happen and you have to deal with it as a team.”
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 22 shots for the Wings, while Saros made 28 saves.
Cousins scored his sixth at 12:46, on a broken play, whirling in the slot and beating Nedeljkovic, who was screened.
Duchene made it 2-0 with his 17th, at 14:21, converting a nice give-and-go passing play with Forsberg, and capped the scoring with his 19th goal into an empty net at 18:12 of the third period.
The Wings had a four-minute power play on a Duchene high-sticking call on Filip Hronek at 17:15 in the first period. But the Wings mustered little threat despite the man advantage, and gave away any momentum they had.
“A lot of opportunities on the power play, we had some good chances, and their goalie made some good saves,” Staal said. “You have to execute and we lost the special teams game within the game.”
Nashville has won six consecutive games against the Wings, and completed the two-game season sweep.