Nashville — Browse the NHL standings, go to the Atlantic Division, and, whoa, look who’s in first place.
Yes, that’s the Red Wings occupying the top spot, tied in points with Montreal but having played two fewer games.
That came about thanks to the Red Wings opening their lengthy road stretch with a 3-2 victory in Nashville on Saturday night.
Both the Red Wings and Canadiens have 43 points, one more than Boston and Florida, three more than Ottawa and four more than Tampa Bay.
“I wasn’t aware of that but, hey, it’s better than not (being there),” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We focus on our own points, our own segments, but it was a big win and given where they (the Canadiens) were at the beginning of the year.”
Ridiculously tight, not quite at the halfway mark in the schedule, but considering how fast Montreal got out of the gate, it’s an accomplishment just the same for the Red Wings.
“It’s early in the season, it’s not even halfway done, but we have to keep going and hope we see the end result at the end of the season,” goalie Petr Mrazek said.
Luke Glendening’s goal at 6:45 broke a 2-2 tie and carried the Red Wings to the victory.
Goalie Petr Mrazek made 24 saves, and the Red Wings began a stretch of nine of 10 road games with an impressive victory.
“We found a way to win what was a close game,” Blashill said.
And in came after three days off for the holiday break, flying to Nashville the day of the game, and they found a way to swipe a hard-fought victory.
“That’s the toughest part, to go on the road and try to get some points,” said Brendan Smith, who scored a goal and had an assist. “We did a good job tonight. It’s a nice time to get away and kind of recharge the batteries and then come back to hockey.
“The biggest thing was to get mentally prepared after you spend time relaxing and putting back the work boots on.”
On the winner Glendening, uncontested in the crease, deflected Brendan Smith’s shot from the high slot past goalie Pekka Rinne for his second goal.
“Our net front has been real good,” Blashill said. “It’s such a big part of hockey today and certainly a big part of what we want to do. Glenny was in a good spot and got a good tip.”
Brendan Smith and Riley Sheahan (power play) scored for the Red Wings.
Filip Forsberg had the two Predators goals.
Sheahan gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead in the second period with his fifth goal, his second in two games.
Brad Richards shot the puck on net, the puck lay in front of Rinne and Sheahan, cruising through the crease, put a nice backhand past Rinne at 2:55.
“Kind of a good bounce, and some guys made some good plays on the walls,” Sheahan said. “Richie made a great play to put the puck on the net and I tried to get my stick on it and was fortunate it bounced back to me so I put it in.”
The Red Wings held that lead throughout the second period until 17:11, when Forsberg scored his second goal.
Sheahan lost the faceoff to Mike Ribeiro, who got the puck to Craig Smith near the edge of the circle.
Smith’s shot on net was deflected by Forsberg, the puck flying past Mrazek for Forsberg’s ninth goal and second of the game.
Brendan Smith opened the scoring with his second goal.
Smith ripped a shot from the dot past a screened Rinne at 5:34 of the first period, giving the Red Wings a 1-0 lead.
But Forsberg quickly answered for the Predators, 45 seconds later off a 3-on-2 rush.
After allowing three Shea Weber power-play goals three weeks ago when Nashville visited the Red Wings, the Red Wings killed all three Nashville power plays in this game.
“You have to be willing to block shots,” Smith said. “They shoot the puck so well, and a guy like Weber may have the hardest shot in the league. You have to be willing to block shots and Pavel (Datsyuk) did it in the end, and when your most skilled player is blocking shots, and Glennie (Glendening) ate (blocked) one and Helmer (Darren Helm) ate one, it’s just how to play on the penalty kill.”