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Pivotal Moment: Koivu line takes over, shifts momentum

Though they weren't rewarded with a goal, the Zucker-Koivu-Niederreiter line dominated a shift in the Predator's zone, and changed the game in the process.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

'When the game started last night, the Predators were at every disadvantage you could ask for in terms of scheduling: they were away from home and on the back end of a back-to-back. To make matters worse, they were coming off a big loss, and against a team almost desperate for a win after the worst stretch of the season.

Despite all that, the Wild came out slow and the Predators looked to be controlling play early. There was at least some sense of "here we go again" from Wild fans, and then something happened. The Wild's "second" line (which is really its first line but they call it the second) of Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu, and Nino Niederreiter went out for a shift about 8 minutes in, and the whole game changed.

Up to that point, the Predators were out-shot-attempting (or out-Corsi-ing) the Wild nearly 2-to-1, and the ice was heavily tilting against Devan Dubnyk. Here is the War on Ice shot-attempt chart leading up to Minnesota's goal; at about 8 minutes in you'll see where Koivu and Kompany came onto the ice.

Shot chart

courtesy of War on Ice

While Koivu and company didn't earn a goal, they did draw the penalty, which directly led to the Wild's first goal. Furthermore, after that shift, the Wild played noticeably better, scoring 2 powerplay and 2 even-strength goals against Rinne, one of the better net minders in the league.

The Koivu line has been one of the best in hockey, and they showed why that was tonight, both by playing well, and shifting momentum back for the Wild. They didn't score a goal, but they changed the game, and the Wild won 4-0. If the Wild had continued playing the passive, rather sloppy game they were to this point, maybe Nashville gets the first goal, and maybe the Wild lose. But they didn't; Koivu and Ko dominated possession, created huge chances, and the Wild controlled play from here on out.