Tonight's game began and ended with Nino Niederreiter.
He started off the Wild's night by taking a puck from Michael Del Zotto in the offensive zone. Once he had the puck, he flung it across the ice to Jonas Brodin, who fired a wrist shot to beat Carter Hutton high. The Predators answered back with another goal when Craig Smith fired a long wrist shot at Darcy Kuemper, and the puck came out of it and just... stopped. It just sat in front of a wide-open goal. And then Smith came in and put it away to tie up the game. The Wild then went on their first power play at the end of the first, when Dany Heatley received a pass from Jason Pominville, and three Predators closed in on him. Heatley then found a wide-open Zach Parise, who netted his 19th goal of the season to put the Wild up 2-1 at the end of the first.
The second period saw the Wild out-shoot the Predators 9-3, but there was a lot of futility going on. Not only did Craig Smith tie the game again to make it 2-2, the Wild were completely futile on the power play. After the first period power-play goal, the performance of our favorite Succubussing unit slowly declined until the beginning of the third period. Unfortunately, that was when it hit rock bottom, where the Wild squandered their power play by struggling to get into the offensive zone, and not getting a single shot.
In fact, the penalty kill got better chances, namely two by Kyle Brodziak, who wasn't able to convert on a breakaway, or another good chance in front of the net. A late third-period power play that saw Shea Weber march to the box revived the power play, and they got good chances which gave them momentum to finish the third period strong, but they couldn't score, and the game went to overtime.
In overtime, Kyle Brodziak made a defensive play that got to Niederreiter, who carried the puck to the offensive zone, and fired a shot past Hutton for the win.
Whether it was just the sheer amount of power play opportunities (Minnesota got 5 to Nashville's 2), or what, the Minnesota Wild seemed to control the game, outshooting the Predators 36-18. It's a little frustrating that they couldn't put the Predators away- had either of the Brodziak chances or an earlier Parise breakaway scored, they wouldn't have needed overtime.
But two points is two points. And it's a big two points. After the Vancouver Canucks were dispatched by the Montreal Canadiens, the Wild increased their lead for the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference to 6 points. Not a bad place to be in heading into the break.
The Minnesota Wild will return on February 27th, having back-to-back road games against Edmonton and Vancouver. But that's no reason to not be on Hockey Wilderness! We'll be here for Olympic Hockey coverage, and of course, we'll keep you up to date on all news Minnesota Wild-related.
1. The Wild have a 2+ game shutout streak against the Predators. Can Darcy Kuemper keep that up? No, but he didn't really need to be great, which is good, as he was shaky. He only faced 18 shots on the night.
2. The Wild's top line of Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville has one game to play together before Mikko Koivu returns. Can they play well enough to convince Mike Yeo to keep that line together? It wasn't like the Colorado game, but yes, they put enough pressure on the Predators to justify keeping them together.
3. Marco Scandella appears to be on track to return shortly after the Olympic Break. Can the Wild's defense survive a game without him? Yes.
4. How big of a trap-game factor is there with this being the last game before the break? Or playing against a team where Eric Nystrom(!!!) is a first-liner(!!!)? There was some trap game worries there, the Wild just wouldn't put them away, but they avoided losing the game.
5. With no games for another week making certain he'll have plenty of time to rest, will Ryan Suter finally play all 60 minutes of the hockey game tonight? He only played 35:11. What a wuss.