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Preds shine for HBO cameras as they beat the Red Wings

With the cameras rolling, the Nashville Predators put on a show.

As one of the participants in the Winter Classic, HBO is following the Detroit Red Wings around leading up to the annual event. Monday was their final game before taking the ice at the University of Michigan on Wednesday.

In front of the third consecutive sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena, the Preds beat the Wings, 6-4, and improved to 18-18-4 on the season.

Rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec made 21 saves en route to his seventh win of the year. His counterpart at the other end of the rink, Jimmy Howard, played in his first game since December 10 and played like it early on. He turned aside 23 Nashville shots in the loss.

Colin Wilson notched his sixth of the season with a weak wrister from the high slot to get the party started. He took a nice pass in the neutral zone from blueliner Seth Jones and then carried into the Detroit zone before blowing it past Howard for the 1-0 lead.

“It was a great play by [Seth],” Wilson said. “I just had to get it up over him. He almost got it but, fortunately, it went in.”

The Red Wings answered right back with one of the prettiest goals you’ll see. Justin Abdelkader came out of the corner just seconds after the Predators goal and, while falling down, roofed a backhand shot to the far corner to tie the score.

Nashville would respond midway through the frame though when Craig Smith would use Shea Weber and David Legwand as decoys while breaking into the Detroit zone. The former Wisconsin Badger wristed a laser into the upper corner past Howard to make it 2-1.

In the middle frame, Nick Spaling would add his name to the scoresheet with yet another long-range wrist shot. The former Kitchener Ranger carried the puck through center ice and over the blueline before bearing down and snapping a shot past Howard to make it 3-1.

“It doesn’t necessarily become the game plan but I think we just tried to get pucks to the net,” Wilson said about the long-distance shots going in. “I think the guys were just taking a look and that’s where shots ended up going so I think guys ended up picking corners tonight.”

In the opening seconds of the final frame, Pavel Datsyuk finally made his presence felt when he one-timed a Niklas Kronwall pass into the back of the net to pull Detroit within one.

Fisher, who already had an assist in the first and a fight with Abdelkader in the second, finished off his Gordie Howe hat trick by potting his 10th goal of the year in the third. He received a pass from Wilson behind the net and snapped it past Howard to re-take the two goal lead.

“He’s getting rewarded with some offense right now,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said about Fisher. “I’m not using him as my primary guy as much as I had been. I think he looks fresher and he’s playing really well.”

Detroit was in desperation mode and really put the pedal to the metal hoping to get back into the contest and, thanks to a Kyle Quincey goal midway through the third, that’s what appeared to happen. Mazanec was without his stick when Darren Helm made a strong rush toward the net. Quincey was able to get a stick on the rebound and, when the Predators goalie tried to fall back and cover the goal line, he accidentally knocked the puck over the line.

“When they got the early goal in the third, they got their happy feet going,” Trotz said. “What I liked about us, though, they’d score and have a push on and we’d push back and get the goal. Then they’d push back and get a goal but then we’d push back and get it right back.That was a lot of character there.”

Push back they did. Moments later, Wilson would respond and give the Predators their all-important two-goal lead back.

“It was huge,” Smith said about the immediate response. “It put us back up by two at that point and it took the momentum away from the other team.”

Patrick Eaves would pull the Red Wings within one once again but an empty net goal by Roman Josi in the waning moments would seal the deal and give the Preds their second victory in a row.

“It’s better than losing,” Smith said. “We’ve got to start to win some games and start to get some points. We’ve got to start climbing back and this was a great team to do it against.”

“It’s not very often we score six goals,” Wilson added. “It was pretty fun and pretty exciting to be a part of.”

Nashville will try to keep climbing the Western Conference ladder when they take on the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday night.

Puck drops at 6:00pm Central.


MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:34 remaining in regulation):
1. Mike Fisher (NSH)
2. Colin Wilson (NSH)
3. Seth Jones (NSH)

1. Colin Wilson (NSH)
2. Mike Fisher (NSH)
3. Seth Jones (NSH)