Jason Arnott scored with 3:58 left in the final period, the second Nashville goal in 9 seconds, and the Predators rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-3 Monday night and cut the first-round series deficit to 2-1.
“There’s moments that are going to happen in a series that can change the whole series,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I don’t know, we might have just had ours.”
So it would seem.
Ryan Suter tied the game just 9 seconds before Arnott’s goal, putting a slap shot from the left side past Dominik Hasek, who had dominated the Predators for most of the game and the series. Martin Erat scored an empty-netter with 41 seconds left to seal the come-from-behind win.
Nashville will look to tie the series in Game 4 on Wednesday night. The series will then shift back to Detroit on Friday.
“I don’t know what it is. When we get down, we seem to push that much harder,” said Arnott, who also scored in the second period.
For Detroit, the somber locker room felt like a team that had just been eliminated, not like the NHL’s top seed which still leads the series. Pavel Datsyuk goal 40 seconds into the final period had given the Red Wings a 3-2 lead, and for them, what appeared to be a tight grip on the series.
“Guys are down. Guys are hurting,” Detroit center Kris Draper said. “At the same time, when we wake up (Tuesday), we’re still up 2-1, even if it doesn’t feel that way.”
Detroit had outshot Nashville in each of the first two games of the series, including 12 consecutive games dating back to the last two seasons.
After managing only three goals against Hasek through the first two games of the series, the Predators came out shooting early and often against the 43-year-old goaltender. And the strategy paid off.
Nashville outshot Detroit 29-26 and scored two more goals than it had in the first two games combined, avoiding an 0-3 hole that only two teams in NHL history have ever come back from.
“To go down 0-3 would have been a huge hole that not many teams have come out of,” Nashville center David Legwand said. Now, I feel like we have taken the momentum from them.”
The Predators trailed 0-2 in the second period before tying the game, bringing life to a Thunder-Stick pounding Sommet Center crowd.
Alexander Radulov would deflect a slap shot by Ryan Suter for a goal that tightened the game to 2-1, and Arnott would tie the game with 4:59 to play in the second period, one-timing a pass from J.P. Dumont on a 2-on-1 break.
“We sure thought we were set up pretty well,” Detroit coach Mike Babock said. “It looked like things were going real good … It was a good momentum swing for them, and we didn’t handle it very good.”
Nashville, on the other hand, survived one of its toughest test in a season filled with them. Now the Predators will look to tie the series and try to survive the first round, something they’ve never done.
“Our guys just keep getting kicked down,” Trotz said. “But they keep coming back.”
Legwand returned to the lineup after missing 14 straight games with a deep bone bruise on his left foot, but played sparingly and appeared to be slowed by the injury. Legwand had not played since March 7 after taking a shot off his foot … Detroit RW Kirk Maltby (hamstring), and RW Tomas Kopecky (legs) were scratched before the game … The Red Wings have scored first in each of the first three games … Vince Gill, a Nashville native recently inducted into the County Music Hall of Fame, sang the national anthem.