The Minnesota Wild used special teams and a return to its solid defensive structure to shutout the Nasville Predators 4-0 in St. Paul Saturday night. Ryan Suter scored his first goal ever against his former team, and that would stand as the game-winning goal. The Wild also got even with known a$$-clown James Neal when Nate Prosser dropped the gloves with the antagonist in the second period.
Don't panic over the Wild penalty kill
The Wild penalty kill has stuggled out of the gate this year, but we should be optimistic about a turnaround.
The Wild and Predators skated to a pretty even period with Minnesota taking advantage of the one man-advantage they got in the period to gain the lead. Ryan Suter took a shot that had eyes from the left point for his third goal of the season. That's the second goal in as many games he's been a direct creator of in as many games. Last game, against the Bruins, he took a shot that was deflected off of Jordan Schroeder to bring the Wild within one in the second period. Suter being a shooter is a good thing for the Wild. Outside of the goal, the eyes were on James Neal every time he was on the ice. He was booed vociferously, and many times when him and Ryan Carter were on the ice together, people were looking for those two to tango.
Not sure if it's the Xcel Energy Center or just everyone becoming healthy again, but the layered defensive structure returned, at least through the first two periods.The Wild were able to limit the shots of the Preds and really get its time in the offensive zone. Mikael Granlund cleaned up a rebound from Christian Folin and Jason Pominville for his third goal of the season, and his second point of the night. That makes it the 2nd two-point night in three games for the Finnish Baby Jesus. Later, after a Wild power play ended, Jonas Brodin found just enough room through a Predator attempting to block Brodin's shot and under the glove of Pekka Rinne. Former Wild Eric Nystrom gave Folin a cross check to the chops and those two tussled. Folin couldn't get many punches thrown, let alone landed, but he was able to take Nystrom to the ice to end the fight. Nystrom got and extra penalty for the cross check to Folin. The Wild was unable to score on the PP, but got good chances. Then Nate Prosser and James Neal decided to dance. So for those fans looking to enact revenge against Neal, there you go. Nashville would get a power play, in which the Wild penalty killers held down the fort, after Erik Haula and Calle Jarnkrok got into a skirmish. Both got matching roughing minors, but Haula was given an extra unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Not entirely sure for what, but it could have been the shove he gave Jarnkrok or that fact that his jersey tie-down wasn't tied down.
Thomas Vanek was great all game long. He got an assist on the earlier Suter goal, but added a goal of his own on the power play just 2:28 into the third period to give the Wild a 4-0 lead. Minnesota just did what they could to keep the Predators at bay, and Nashville came away with barely any push in the final minutes. Devan Dubnyk came away with a shutout, his 3rd shutout of the season. Suter ended with three points with a goal and two assists. Vanek had a goal and an assist. Pominville had two assists. The Wild PK was a perfect 1-for-1 with the Wild playing a much more disciplined game, even though both teams combined for 46 penalty minutes. It was the 60 minute effort the Wild needed after coming off a 1-2-1 road trip in which they led for all of a minute. The power play had good to sometimes great puck movement as that finished 2-for-4.
Minnesota now draws into a tie with Nashville at 25 points in the gauntlet that is the Central Division. The Wild defense made the shots that Dubnyk had to face, for the most part, easy, or at least look easy. In the first period, Granlund's line got hemmed into the defensive zone and Dubnyk stood tall. It was a shift immediately after by the Koivu line, that seemed to shift momentum. Mikko Koivu, who was playing in his 700th career game, was all over the ice and came close to scoring many times. Congrats to the Wild captain on his 700th game milestone.