A huge win in OT for your Minnesota Wild tonight in a hostile building that accelerated to a playoff atmosphere as the game progressed. In contrast to the expectation of a tightly checked game, tonight's contest was wide open for large chunks and featured both teams taking turns trading punches. Both goalies lived up to their expectations and made great saves, though Devan Dubnyk might want to have one back. A Matt Dumba OT clap bomb put an exclamation point on the game for the Wild, who captured 2 points to pace the field in the wildcard race. Nashville has been reeling since the last time the Wild came to town and are quickly playing themselves out of position to face the Wild in the first round of the playoffs. Tonight showed why that could be a favorable matchup. Lots of guys with great games tonight, besides the obvious Charlie Coyle (more in a minute) and Dumba, Erik Haula, Justin Fontaine and Jonas Brodin had great games on both sides of the puck. The game had it's moments as the Wild trailed in SOG 10-25 in the third period before playing themselves back into the game. But overall, a nice road game over a hungry but tired opponent.
The Wild sauntered off to a solid first period on the road. After sustaining an initial jump from Nashville's first shift, the Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville line tilled the ice back in Minnesota's favor, grabbing possession and creating a rush. This set a tone for a much more wide-open period than was expected between the Wild and Predators. The first frame saw both teams alternate rushes and create scoring chances. The Predators were only able assert themselves on the Power Play and took only 4 shots through the first 8 minutes, all with the man advantage. The period came to a close with Charlie Coyle swatting a puck home after a huge shot from the point by Jordan Leopold to put the Wild up 1-0. The score was generated by a clinical pass-pass-shoot from Justin Fontaine to Thomas Vanek to Leopold for Leopold's first assist and point in a Wild Sweater.
The Wild came back out and spent the first seven minutes cycling the offensive zone in the second frame. Unfortunately this effort did not result in a lot of shots. As is typical with a team returning home, Nashville found its legs in the second and quickly tilted the ice back in their favor. The Predators buzzed for 2 shifts before Roman Josi got the crowd back into the game on a beautiful shot from the point off a pass from Gretzky's office behind the net. Josi then set the crowd on fire just 45 seconds later as Viktor Stalberg carried the puck in shoveled it to Josi, who fired through a Jared Spurgeon screen in the left circle, fooling Dubnyk and putting the Predators in the lead. Playing on its heels, the Wild put themselves in a really bad spot following a Dumba tripping minor and Leopold delay of game 1:07 later. Fortunately, an amazing kill by Haula, Kyle Brodziak and Jonas Brodin took care of 53 seconds of 5-on-3. With Dumba returning to the ice, the group also took care of most of the remaining penalty, raising the PK to a perfect 4 of 4 on the night.
The third period started out shaky as it looked like the more tightly checked contest that was expected, but the Wild continued to build their game. They took no shots in the first 7 minutes, but the first line set off a chain of flurries from the first, second and fourth lines in sequence. A couple nice rushes were negated as Shea Webber crumpled Zach Parise, as he had been all night. Then with the top line pushing through the neutral zone, Charlie Coyle joined the play from the bench and charged to the top of the circle, received a tape-to-tape cross ice pass from a charging Chris Stewart and scored on an absolute howitzer of a shot as he caught up with the play. The third period ended with a little bit of nastiness at the buzzer with the score knotted at 2. Nashville had the first push in the extra frame, but the Wild quickly pushed back and created a rush as Ryan Suter made a gorgeous exit pass to Dumba as he was falling. Dumba pushed it down the wing to Zach Parise who sent it back to a trailing Dumba, who fired it home behind Pekka Rinne and sent the Wild away with 2 points.
Takeaways from tonight: Charlie Coyle is showing flashes of the player he can be when he plays a confident game. He asserted himself all over the ice and made Nashville pay. Great game for Chowdah. Brodin looked smooth on the left side and Folin played a really strong game. Haula's game continues to come along. Duby was Duby. The wildcard race is tight, but if the Wild continue to play like this, it won't really matter what any of the other teams around them do.