Minnesota could not complete the home-and-home sweep after getting shutout by Juuse Saros, and the Nashville Predators 3-0. It was a highly entertaining game, but the Wild just couldn’t keep pace with the Predators and their ability to skate until the cows come home. Scott Hartnell, P.K. Subban, and Viktor Arvidsson scored in the third period to send the Wild back to the land of snow and ice and cold.
This one was good for the Wild early, who were able to ward off the early push by the Predators. Outside of Kevin Fiala putting a dent into the crossbar, it was an even period that saw the Wild hold the shot margin after 20 minutes. The Wild couldn’t cash in on their two early power play opportunities of the game, and even had an abbreviated one as Matt Dumba was called for interference even though Subban stepped into Dumba’s lane and initiated contact. But because Subban went down, Dumba was sent to the sin bin. Officiating was a little sketchy early on. However, the Wild made is easier for the refs to make calls.
In the second period, the Wild’s heavy legs made an appearance. The Preds were really good at shutting down the neutral zone. With the Wild unable to skate the puck out on the breakout, they resorted to more lob passes and only got offense in transition. Actually changing from defense to offense became more difficult as the game went along.
Those legs also started the march to the box for Minnesota. Joel Eriksson Ek took a tripping minor after losing the puck. He took another when he held Ryan Johansen, which was a good call, and probably a good penalty to take because it negated a scoring chance. Minnesota killed off those two Eriksson Ek minors and Mikko Koivu’s tripping minor.
After an exciting, but scoreless second period, Minnesota needed to win the final period to get the two points. Scott Hartnell broke the nothing-nothing deadlock when Nick Bonino’s shot had to be saved by Alex Stalock. Hartnell gathered the rebound and beat Stalock to the other side of the net for the 1-0 marker.
Too bad too because both goalies were playing exceptionally. Stalock didn’t have to make the incredible saves that Saros had to make at the other end, but he was solid in net.
It didn’t get easier for the Wild when on the Predators’ 5th power play chance, P.K. Subban doubled the Nashville lead with a blast from the point. The shot was so hard that it when it deflected downward off of Zack Mitchell’s stick, the puck bounced like a super bouncy ball into the net just under the crossbar.
The Preds’ PP is terrifying. They move the puck so well. They get net-front presence. They have a hammer from the point, and they have wingers, even without Filip Forsberg, that can fire the puck from the wings. Minnesota was playing with fire by giving the Preds 5 opportunities with the man-advantage, and they ultimately got burned.
The Predators are also quite adept at closing out games. They continued to pressure in the final minutes of the game while Minnesota could hardly mount any pressure. With over 2 minutes remaining and a 2 goal deficit, Bruce Boudreau went for the empty net. Viktor Arvidsson added the empty-net goal to seal the victory for Nashville.
Minnesota had its chances. They just couldn’t solve Saros. Mikael Granlund had 7 shots on goal and led the team in that category followed by both Tyler Ennis and Jason Zucker with 3 shots each.
The Preds are just a better team than the Wild. They have the talent and the players to play a mobile/skating type game. Yeah, they Peter Laviolette put both Cody McLeod and Frederick Gaudreau into tonight’s line-up. But they only played 6 minutes. It wasn’t physicality that beat the Wild; it was skating. Nashville kept doing so, and the Wild couldn’t keep up.