The Wild clinched in a big game against the Blackhawks on Tuesday and decided to give its team MVP Devan Dubnyk a very deserved night off. Taking a seat Thursday night as well was Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, and Nino Niederreiter. Enter Matt Cooke, Sean Bergenheim, and Darcy Kuemper. The Wild scored four unanswered goals in the final 23 minutes of the game to come from behind and beat the Nashville Predators 4-2 on the Bridgestone Arena ice for the third time this season.
It didn't start the best for Kuemper and the Wild. Kuemper had a Filip Forsberg shot go by him on a shot that should have been stopped. Minnesota wasn't able to mount much in the offensive zone either. Seth Jones let a wrister go from the blue line that found the upper-right corner of Kuemper's net. Darcy was screened on the play, but there was a lot of net to shoot at over Kuemper's glove. The Wild were down early and with some key offensive players out of the line-up, it did not look like it was going to be the night when they would tie the NHL's record for most road games won in a row.
Fast-forward to the second period, the Wild really put on decent pressure on Pekka Rinne and the res of the Predators defense. Out-shooting the Preds 15-9 for the period, Minnesota got good chances, but just couldn't cash in. Then, on a late period power play, Jason Zucker, who saw power play time with Parise out, got the Wild on the board. Jared Spurgeon set up Matt Dumba for a one-timer, who fanned on the shot. The puck ended up in the left corner where Justin Fontaine chased and retrieved the puck. Instead of going back up to the point to Dumba, He found Zucker, who broke to the slot and one-timed a shot past Rinne for Zucker's second goal in as many games since his return from a broken collar bone. At 17:43 of the second, just 31 seconds after the Zucker goal, Marco Scandella scored one of the prettiest goals the Wild scored all season. Matt Cooke got the puck to the left wing where Scandella was breaking down, he felt the Predator defensemen shift over to him as Marco attempted to corral the pass. He did a spin move past the defender and sniped a shot over the blocker of Rinne just inside the post. The puck went in and came out so fast that it looked like it hit the post.
Minnesota came out for the third period with the score evened up at two. Nashville really tried to press and get the go-ahead goal, but they were met with a wall named Kuemper. Kuemper made some really nice saves by getting his body in front of the puck and freezing the puck when he needed to settle things down as the Preds pushed. Jason Pominville put the Wild on top for good with a hard slap shot from the high slot. It was a laser beam and a nice set up by Spurgeon. Then, with Rinne pulled for the extra-skater, Zucker notched his second goal of the night as the 1:00 announcement rang throughout the arena.
Mikko Koivu's assist on Zucker's empty-netter was his 500th point of his career. Darcy Kuemper will finish with a 13-12-2 record on the season. Zucker had his 20th and 21st goals of the season making him the fourth Wild player this season with over 20 goals on the season.
Too bad for Zucker that he had to miss time with the clavicle injury, but it is great to see him come right back into the fold and produce right away.
The penalty kill was a perfect 2-for-2 and the Wild scored on its only power play opportunity of the game.