NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 28: Jon DiSalvatore #29 of the Minnesota Wild fights the defense of Jonathon Blum #7 of the Nashville Predators in front of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne #35 at the Bridgestone Arena on December 28, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
For the Nashville perspective, please visit On the Forecheck.
A few interesting notes for the game tonight, as both the Wild and the Predators have gotten away from their game. The Wild aren't relentless on their forecheck, and the Predators haven't been sharp in their zone.
Jon DiSalvatore suited up and played tonight, making him the 35th member of the Minnesota Wild to don a jersey and skate in a game. That's tops in the league, folks. You can talk about regression all you want, but having to play 35 different players through 38 games isn't usually the method for success.
Both Jared Spurgeon and Shea Weber missed this game. Spurgeon has a lower-body injury on a dirty play, and Weber was dealt a concussion on a cheap hit. I guess even elite stars in small markets can't get justice.
To the game:
The first period had both teams grinding each other out. Neither squad was looking to make a mistake early on. The Predators have given up at least three 1st period goals in 2 of their last 3 games, which is usually not a recipe for success (unless you're playing the Blue Jackets). Both sides had a few chances, but for the most part, both squads played their zone coverages well, forcing a lot of perimeter and low-quality shots that end up as one shot and going the other way.
Nashville had the early jump in the 2nd. Their forwards came out and pressured the Wild, forcing an early hooking penalty on Nate Prosser. The Wild, in a rare moment these last few games, elevated their play when necessary against the #2 powerplay in the NHL. 0 shots allowed, and all of a sudden the Wild had some momentum going back the other way. A good shift by the Koivu line put pressure on the Preds. Staubitz even created enough of a forecheck to draw a penalty (that's right, don't adjust your monitor); however, the undisciplined play killed the PP as the Wild took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Easily avoidable penalty for good teams. Another good kill gave the Wild some momentum, as they ended the 2nd period with a lead in shots, 22-15 but still no score.
The Wild came out in the 3rd and continued where they left off in the 2nd, getting pucks in deep and forcing turnovers. Brodziak rang one off the pipe, and anything else directed towards the twine was blocked by Rinne. Jonathan Blum put the Predators up 1-0 on a wrist shot from the blueline that Harding never saw. To their credit, the Wild did not get down on themselves. They sucked it up and kept coming at Rinne and the Predators defense. The Wild stuck to the forecheck, and finally got paid off when Heatley snuck a wraparound in to tie it up, 1-1. A late powerplay for Nashville couldn't get it done in regulation, so both teams readied themselves for overtime.
The Wild chose to unleash in the overtime. They had the better chances in the OT, but this guy named Rinne kept getting in the way. Might as well give the fans extra "hockey" with a shootout.
Matt Cullen (Wild) - Missed when he lost control of the puck
Colin Wilson (Preds) - Scored on a backhand shelf
Mikko Koivu (Wild) - Missed on a save
Craig Smith (Preds) - Missed on a hit post
Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Wild) - Missed on the spin-o-rama
Wild lose this one in a shootout, but there's some signs of life. The Wild got a point, a fanbase did not boo Dany Heatley all night, and no one was hit from behind and left on a stretcher. Progress, I suppose.
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse of the Game:
- Pekka Rinne (34 saves on 35 shots, big saves early in OT)
- Dany Heatley (1G, gets the Wild one point)
- Ryan Suter (29:46 played, kept the Koivu line in check most of the night)
Remember, when you begin and end your night at Bennett's, you're the star! Easy parking, drink and food specials and a free shuttle to and from the Xcel Energy Center. Check them out at http://bennettschopandrailhouse.com/.
- What does it take to actually win? Full effort tonight. Had the 2nd point stolen by Rinne.
- Will anyone, anyone at all step up for the Wild? Better play up and down, but Heatley buried the late goal to get at least one point.
- Can the second line rediscover its game? Coming back to life. Cullen was good down low, but still not enough.
- Is the third line in need of change? Not yet. 3rd and 4th lines got pucks in deep and created turnovers.
- Is this Palmer's breakout game? Healthy scratch, so no.