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Return is bittersweet for Tootoo

Red Wings' forward scores in first game back in Nashville

Wednesday, 02.20.2013 / 12:01 AM / Recap
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Return is bittersweet for Tootoo

Jordin Tootoo returned to Nashville for the first time since signing a three-year contract with the Red Wings during the off-season. (Photo by Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was a bittersweet homecoming for Jordin Tootoo, who made his first return to the city that he called home for nine years.

On Tuesday night, Tootoo scored his very first goal in a Red Wings’ sweater – which also happened to be his first goal in any sweater in nearly 14 months – though in the end his new team lost to his old team.

Playing in their ninth overtime game of the season, the Predators pulled out a 4-3 victory when Shea Weber scored just 44-seconds into the extra session at Bridgestone Arena.

“You can score all you want but at the end of the night, if you don't win it doesn't matter,” said Tootoo, who last scored on Dec. 28, 2011.

Ever since the lockout ended and the NHL’s compressed 48-game schedule was unveiled, Tuesday’s game was going to be a spotlight game for Tootoo, as well as the Nashville fans, whom he entertained for eight seasons with his trademark hits.

Before the game, Tootoo wasn’t sure how fans would view his return. “I'm just going to go out there and embrace it and enjoy every moment of it,” he said. “I played a lot of years here. I've made a lot of great friends here and a lot of experiences I'll never forget.”

At first, the sold-out crowd didn’t know if they should cheer or jeer their former favorite son, as a mix of both rang through the building as Tootoo hopped over the boards to take his first shift just 91-seconds into the opening period.

“Obviously, it's very humbling,” said Tootoo, who finished with five shots on goal and four hits, both season-highs for him. “I couldn't thank them enough for all their support over the years.”

But moments later, the home crowd showed their true respect for the man who holds the franchise’s all-time record for penalty minutes. It was during a first-period TV timeout, that the Predators’ organization played a video tribute to Tootoo, which was greeted by a thunderous standing ovation. The clips showed Tootoo in action both on the ice and in the Nashville community, where he had become a very popular figure in middle Tennessee.

“I had no clue they were going to do that,” Tootoo said. “A couple of guys on the bench told me to look up and there it was. When you start your career here, you grow as a person, for them to do something like that is pretty nice.”

Tootoo showed his appreciation for the fans by scoring his first goal in 57 NHL games.

Streaking down the right win, Tootoo took a cross-ice pass from Henrik Zetterberg, and tried to return the favor to the Red Wings’ captain, but Predators defenseman Kevin Klein – in an attempt to block the pass – accidently re-directed the puck with his right leg and past goalie Pekka Renne at 11:33 of the third period. The goal tied the game at 2-2, and also set off a three-minute fury that featured goals by Nashville’s Roman Josi and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk.

The Wings worked hard to get back into the game after spotting Nashville an early 2-0 lead, but Tootoo said there are no moral victories.

“Tonight we battled back hard but just couldn't finish,” he said. “We got to win games.”

THREE STARS: 3, Gabriel Bourque, NSH (1 goal); 2, Pavel Datsyuk, DET (1 goal, 1 assist); 1, Shea Weber, NSH (1 goal, 1 assist).

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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