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Preds score three but lose for first time in 34 games…

What the 17,113 in Bridgestone Arena witnessed was a potential playoff match-up. And a good one at that.

Too bad the home town fans couldn’t leave happy.

The Nashville Predators took a three goal lead only to see it evaporate over time as the Central Division leading Detroit Red Wings won 4-3 in overtime. Nashville got goals from Ryan Suter, Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn but couldn’t hang on as Detroit tallied four un-answered goals.

This is the first time Nashville has scored three goals but still lost since January 16 in Chicago.

Pekka Rinne allowed four goals on 41 Detroit shots in the loss.

The Predators almost squandered a lead against the Anaheim Ducks last week, then did squander a third period lead against Vancouver this past Tuesday, then almost squandered a third period lead again versus Colorado just two days ago and now did squandered a three goal lead (in the second period) to Detroit. Not a good trend if they want to succeed in the post season.

Midway through the first period, the Red Wings thought they’d scored but it was ruled that Tomas Holmstrom had interfered with Rinne. Not only was the goal waived off but, unlike the last time Holmstrom cause a goal to be waived off, Holmstrom was actually assessed a penalty.

Holmstrom later cleared the puck over the glass, giving the Preds a long 5-on-3 power play. It was then that Nashville would get on the board. Suter took a shot on net with Patric Hornqvist planted right in front of Jimmy Howard. The puck found it’s way through the forest of bodies to make it 1-0, Nashville.

Early in the middle frame, the Predators used the power play once again. This time, Erat tipped a Shea Weber shot-pass through Howard’s legs to make it 2-0.

Then, moments later, Kostitsyn scored his 20th goal of the season (the first Predator to 20) after picking up a juicy rebound off a Mike Fisher shot to jump out to a 3-0 lead.

But the Red Wings came back.

After Rinne settled the puck down behind his net and chipped it to a waiting Jon Blum, Blum tried a casual backhand pass up the boards. It was picked off by Jakub Kindl and then deposited into the Preds net.

Just 1:21 later, Detroit pulled within one on a Justin Abdelkader tip in front that went up and over Rinne.

Abdelkader than tied the game for the Wings early in the third period when he cut in as the late man and Todd Bertuzzi found him backdoor.

Then, in the overtime session, the Red Wings completed the comeback when, off the faceoff, Daniel Cleary got in front of Rinne untouched and tipped the Brian Rafalski shot from the point.

The Predators’ dreams of a Central Division banner became very dim this afternoon. Yes the loss hurt but by simply going to overtime, the Red Wings got a point and made it all the more improbable for Nashville to catch them. For the record, the Preds are five points back with three games to go. Nashville would have to basically win out while Detroit would have to lose all four of their remaining games in regulation.

In short, Nashville only has six possible points left. They’d need them all, and some help, to have a shot at the Central Division.

The Preds will host their final Eastern Conference opponent on Tuesday night when the Atlanta Thrashers come to town. The Thrashers are out of the post season picture once again. Matter of fact, they are one of only two NHL franchise’s who have yet to win a single playoff game.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville’s Friday opponent, is the other.

Puck drops at 7:05pm.

* Contrary to popular belief, Red Wings forward Johan Franzen did not participate in Columbia’s Mule Day festival today.
* Tonight’s contest was a sellout, the 15th at Bridgestone Arena this season.
* Predators defenseman Shane O’Brien spent seven of the first 12 minutes in the penalty box.
* Rinne has lost only three of his last 11 games.
* Abdelkader had just seven goals coming into the game. He now has nine.
* By getting to overtime, Detroit clinched a playoff berth for the 20th straight time. That’s the longest current streak in professional sports.
* With the win, Detroit leap-frogged the San Jose Sharks to re-take 2nd place.
* Nashville’s remaining opponents have a 102-97-35 record this season.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 6:00 remaining in regulation):
1) Justin Abdelkader (DET)
2) Sergei Kostitsyn (NSH)
3) Pekka Rinne (NSH)

1) Justin Abdelkader (DET)
2) Daniel Cleary (DET)
3) Ryan Suter (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //