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Wilson scores twice as Predators defeat Red Wings

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The 2013 calendar year was miserable for the Nashville Predators, but it ended on a high note.

The Predators, getting two goals and an assist from center Colin Wilson, beat the Detroit Red Wings 6-4 Monday in a back-and-forth game at the Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville earned its second win in a row. The Predators (18-18-4) were riding a five-game losing streak before they beat the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

"We wanted to carry (Saturday's momentum) over," said Nashville center Mike Fisher, who had a goal and two assists. "We felt it would help (us) gain a little bit of confidence -- get a good start, get going and play the same way and we'd be fine -- and we did tonight. We're playing a lot better and we're working and we're doing a lot of good things."

Thirty-five seconds into the third, Detroit center Pavel Datsuk buried a slap shot into the net off a cross-ice pass from defenseman Niklas Kronwall to trim the Predators' lead to 3-2.

Wilson, operating behind Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, deftly got past a defender and slid the puck to an open Fisher, and the veteran center slammed it home to restore Nashville's two-goal advantage at 5:50.

It was a rough night for Howard (6-9-7), who returned from nearly a month's absence only to see five of 25 shots get past him.

"It wasn't very pretty. It was a battle all night. To be honest with you, I felt like I was dying to play a lot and just really didn't get comfortable in there," Howard said.

Detroit (18-14-9) once again cut the lead to a goal when left winger Drew Miller tapped home a loose puck just inches in front of Nashville goalie Marek Mazanek at 11:30, but 37 seconds later, Wilson's back-hander got through to Howard's left.

Detroit responded with a power-play goal from Patrick Reaves, his first of the year, off a Kronwall assist at 14:52.

"I thought we really got going late in the second, and in the third, I thought we did some really good things," Kronwall said. "But it's too late. You've got to start on time."

That brought a nervous tension back to the building, which eased a bit when a tripping penalty to Detroit right winger Todd Bertuzzi gave Nashville a man advantage.

Nashville defenseman Roman Josi added an empty-net goal in the final minute.

The Predators wasted no time in exciting the home crowd. Wilson, slicing between two Red Wings defenders, netted a shot from a few feet inside the blue line to give Nashville a 1-0 lead at 1:54 of the first period.

Detroit countered back at 3:00 when right winger Justin Abdelkader, assisted by Miller, slipped the puck past Mazanek to tie the score.

Predators center Craig Smith answered at 9:50, skating along the left side across the blue line and fired an uncontested shot past Howard. The assist went to Paul Gaustad, and the Predators took a 2-1 lead.

Nashville had a great chance to extend the lead when Miller took a double-minor for high-sticking at 12:20 of the opening period, but the Predators couldn't scratch.

Center Nick Spaling put the Predators up by two on a virtual mirror image of Smith's first-period goal as he slapped the puck between Howard's glove hand and the near post at 4:24 of the second period.

The Predators' biggest rivalry was a casualty when the NHL moved Detroit to the Eastern Conference over the spring, but that didn't dampen fan enthusiasm. A sell-out crowd of 17,212 packed the building despite traffic from the Music City Bowl, which ended an hour and a half before faceoff, just a stone's throw across the Cumberland River. It was the only time Detroit will play in Nashville this season.

"It's always fun (to beat Detroit)," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "There's a lot of Detroit transplants (in Nashville). We've played them a gazillion times the past number of years. It's good to see old faces. ... It was a good atmosphere. The fans were fantastic. I think they got into a really good game. There was emotion, there was lots of goals, sways in momentum -- all the things you have in sport. From that standpoint, I thought it was real good."

That crowd pales in comparison to what the Red Wings will see on Wednesday, when they'll face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL's annual Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The game is expected to set a world hockey attendance record, and should draw over 100,000 fans.

NOTES: Nashville improved to 15-1-2 when it scores first. ... Detroit G Jimmy Howard played for the first time since spraining his left MCL in a Dec. 10 practice. ... Howard's backup, Jonas Gustavsson, was a scratch due to a sore groin, while LW Henrik Zetterberg played on Monday after returning on Saturday from an 11-game absence with back pain. ... Detroit welcomed back C Darren Helm, who had missed the last 11 games since spraining his shoulder in a Dec. 4 loss to Philadelphia. ... In a corresponding move, the Red Wings assigned C Luke Glendening to AHL Grand Rapids. ... Nashville C Craig Smith's first-period goal was his team-leading 11th of the season, and his fifth in his last eight games. He also assisted on C Nick Spaling's second-period goal. ... Following Saturday's three-point game, Nashville C Mike Fisher picked up a first-period assist. He also took a five-minute penalty for a second-period fight with Detroit LW Justin Abdelkader.
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