Missing a shutout was of no concern to Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Red Wings goalie was more concerned with earning a road win against a division rival.
Howard stopped 31 of 32 shots to help the Red Wings stop a two-game skid with a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Monday night.
Howard credited the victory to a fast start for the Red Wings in front of a sellout crowd.
”We did a great job of countering them in the first 10 minutes,” Howard said.
”The Predators do a great job early, but we came out mentally refreshed. We didn’t look gassed or anything like that. We skated extra time during the morning skate to stretch our legs.
”The first 10 minutes here you just have to survive. We did a great job of counter punching.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz gave Howard the credit for getting the Red Wings off to a strong start.
”We had more chances than Detroit, but the start of the game was all Jimmy Howard,” Trotz said. ”He made some key saves at key times. We had lots of quality chances but we just couldn’t convert them.”
Valtteri Filppula scored the first and last goals for the Red Wings — one in the first and another in the third.
The Predators, who have lost two straight and three of four, held an 8-7 advantage in shots on goal in the first period, but the Red Wings scored the only goal. Filppula fired a shot from high in the slot that beat Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne low to his right side with 9:03 to go in the period.
Filppula struck for the second time when he capped off a flurry of shots with a wrister from low in the right circle 5:22 into the third period.
In the second period, the Red Wings got two goals in 13 seconds. Pavel Datsyuk scored on a wrap-around as he squeezed the puck between the left post and Rinne with 7:08 left. The play was reviewed before the goal was officially announced.
”One of the linesmen saw it and he thought it was definitely in,” Trotz said. ”As I said to them, the puck was probably in but I don’t know if it was conclusively in.”
With 6:55 to go in the period, Danny Cleary sent a wrister from the low inside edge of the right circle past Rinne glove side.
”It was key to get two quick goals, especially doing it on the road,” Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom said. ”We got the first goal but I thought we didn’t slow down at all. We just kept playing our game and getting opportunities.”
The Predators squandered five power-play chances.
”We did an excellent job on the penalty kill,” Howard said. ”We kept it simple. When we got the puck, 95 percent of the time we got it out and made them regroup and come back a full 200 feet. We chewed up a lot of time.”
Jonathon Blum ended Howard’s attempt for his fourth shutout of the season with a blast from just inside the blue line with 2:12 left in the game.
The Predators were without Shea Weber, the team’s captain and points leader. He is listed as having an upper-body injury. Trotz admitted the loss of Weber changed the attitude of the team, but also thought the Predators played well despite his absence.
”I think there was some apprehension,” Trotz said. ”We had a very good Detroit team coming in here and you don’t know who is going to respond to match-ups.
”I thought we responded pretty well once again. We played as well as Detroit, maybe even better.”