'How many times are we going to do this?': Predators rout Red Wings 7-1
Detroit — The Red Wings had been playing better since being routed in Nashville on March 25.
They had improved defensively and didn't have many bad stretches. They were playing smart hockey and weren't letting deficits spiral out of control.
Then came Thursday night. The Predators pounded the Wings again, 7-1, at Little Caesars Arena. All the Wings' bad habits resurfaced in a game that gradually turned into a blowout. It was the identical score as the March mismatch in Music City.
There are lessons still to be learned. And frustration that these ugly losses continue to pop up after the Wings begin to take positive steps.
"How many more times are we going to have to do this?" said forward Luke Glendening, of the Wings' growing pains. "We're all frustrated with it. I'm just as much to blame as anyone. I'm not pointing fingers, but how many more times are we going to have to do this before enough is enough?"
Defensive breakdowns, leaving too many Predators in prime position to score and anemic offense prompted the undoing. The Wings (13-23-6) have won just once in their last six games (1-3-2).
"It's another night where we got down and don't respond well," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We've done a better job of that through the year. But (Thursday) we got down and we didn't have the response."
Darren Helm scored the lone Wings' goal.
Viktor Arvidsson scored three times. Erik Haula, Nick Cousins, Mikael Granlund and Yakov Trenin added the Predators other goals. Red-hot goaltender Juuse Saros made 23 saves.
The Wings welcomed back goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who had missed the prior 10 games with a lower-body injury. Forward Sam Gagner (who missed five games) also returned. But their presence didn’t provide enough spark.
Bernier stopped 24 shots, but appeared to be lacking his usual timing. The Wings didn't help their goaltender.
"We hung him out to dry, and that's on all of us," Glendening said. "Especially for a guy, he's played so well for us all season and been keeping us in games, his first game back. That's on us as players."
The third period was especially rough for the Wings and Bernier, as the team's defense allowed some easy scoring chances.
"I didn't think we stayed with it for him enough," Blashill said. "We got really stupid in the third, things we hadn't done the rest of the game. We had those three lapses in the second (period) for sure, I get it, but they had some lapses too. It happens in a hockey game.
"In the third we just played stupid, and at that point, you have to play the right way. We stopped playing the right way."
With playoff-bound teams looking for goaltending depth at Monday’s NHL trade 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.
The Predators (22-18-1) answered quickly. Cousins fed Arvidsson going to the net, and Arvidsson, who almost overskated the puck, managed a shot on Bernier. The puck was never secured by the goalie, 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. Haula gave Nashville 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 at 8:50, making 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 hash marks, and Cousins one-timed a shot past Bernier at 16:10.
"Certainly we understand Grade-A chances are the ones right in front of the net and you can't give those up," Blashill said. "We've done a good job of not giving up Grade-A's, but tonight we were poor at it."
The Predators, who won six of the eight games against the Wings, didn't slow down in the final 20 minutes.
Granlund scored his 10th goal at 7:06 to push the lead to 4-1. Then it was Arvidsson's turn to complete his third career hat trick. He made it 5-1 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 a penalty shot at 11:06.
Trenin capped the Predators scoring at 15:55, beating Bernier on a drive to the net.
"We talked about it before the game, we talk about it a lot, how we have to out work and out compete teams on a nightly basis to give ourselves a chance," Glendening said. "We didn't do that and because of that, they had easy opportunities to score goals."