Game No. 1 of 82. Not the finish we were hoping for, that's for sure. The Nashville Predators beat the Minnesota Wild for the sixth straight time Thursday night dating back to a 3-2 shootout loss last March.
Things were starting to look positive in Minnesota’s favor heading into the second intermission. The Wild were up 2-1 after two periods and finished the middle frame with urgency. Then, 27 seconds into the third period, our old friend Mikael Granlund decided to redirect a Roman Josi shot to tie the game up at two apiece.
Okay, tie game, right? Battle to the finish? Nope. The game stayed tied for a brisk one minute and 29 seconds. While laying on the ice in front of Devan Dubnyk, Predators forward Austin Watson deflected a Ryan Ellis wrister to sneak one past the Wild netminder.
GOAL. Predators take the lead. They're on fire to start the period. pic.twitter.com/xi03SKeRqQ— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 4, 2019
From there, Nashville seemed to score at will, not giving an inch to the Wild to sneak back into the game. About six minutes after the pair of goals to start the period, Nashville forward Craig Smith sent a wrister to the net looking for a “pad pass” and that’s exactly what he got. Dubnyk kicked out a juicy rebound and Viktor Arvidsson made no mistake in burying the rebound to give the Predators a two-goal insurance policy.
The Wild had a chance or two to cut the lead back down to one, but ultimately Pekka Rinne shut the door. Most notably on a Jason Zucker breakaway with five minutes remaining in the game.
The Predators tacked on a Filip Forsberg empty-netter to extend their lead to what the game would finish as, 5-2.
Devan Dubnyk looked good with the little help he was given. The third period didn’t go the way he would have wanted, but he kept the Wild in the game through two periods and gave them a great shot at winning a game in a hostile environment. Dubnyk stopped 20 of the first 21 shots, robbing the Predators of capitalizing on a few of their high-danger scoring chances.
This save particularly stood out as Dubnyk robbed the man we once called “Our Beloved Granny” in an early save of the year candidate.
Robs Granlund, of all people. What a ridiculous stop. pic.twitter.com/VQywNrUs21— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 4, 2019
Read this stat line. Zero goals, zero assists, one shot on goal, one hit, one blocked shot and a minus-9. That was the combined totals of the Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello line. With these totals, it’s not hard to point the finger and say that's where it went wrong for the Wild. The veterans did not come to play on Thursday night. Parise is typically lights out in season openers, scoring 10 goals in the past 13 season openers coming into Thursday’s matchup in Nashville. Staal was nowhere to be found all night. He seemed to be a step behind most of the game. Not a good sign from the 34-year-old. It was Zuccarello’s first regular season game in a Wild sweater and it couldn’t have gone much worse for him and his linemates. Minnesota got nothing but negatives from the trio. The veterans will need to step up if this team is going to go anywhere this season.
To leave you on a couple positive notes, Jason Zucker looked great — far and away the Wild’s best player. It seemed like he accumulated half of the team’s scoring chances. Zucker opened the scoring for the Wild by taking a Brad Hunt one-timer off his shoulder to redirect the puck past Rinne. The first goal of the season for the Wild belongs to Zucker, and it was very well deserved at that. Especially now that he’s looking for a bounce-back year following a 12-goal drop from his 33 in 2017-18.
GOAL. Brad Hunt rips one from the point and Jason Zucker redirects it past Rinne. We're tied 1-1. pic.twitter.com/gdApG17OMA— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) October 4, 2019
The other positive; Matt Dumba is on pace for 82 goals this season. In my personal opinion, I don’t see any reason he cannot hit that mark if he stays healthy.