The Minnesota Wild suffered their first loss of the young season Tuesday night to the Nashville Predators. A crowd of 17,540 saw the Predators skate away with a 3-1 victory at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild have a couple days to lick their wounds before heading to Detroit to face the Red Wings. Nashville won the first game of a franchise record, 7 game road trip.
The game started off well enough for the home team with good puck movement and a couple of chances early in the period. Zenon Konopka got the crowd going, hopping to it with Rich Clune less than three minutes into the game. During a lengthy fight, Konopka landed a series of good blows to the delight of the crowd. Dany Heatley scored his third goal of the season, his first at 5 on 5. One assist went to Zach Parise , his third of the year. Clayton Stoner got the second assist, his first point on the season. That was the extent of the Wild scoring for the night. For the second game in a row Minnesota’s offense produced just a single goal. On the plus side, the Wild’s top line of Parise, Heatley and Mikko Koivu did score other than on the power play. Half way through the first period the Wild led 5-1 in shots on goal. Nashville knotted the score at 1 apiece at the 16:31 mark. Kevin Klein launched a shot from the point that was blocked by Jared Spurgeon for the Wild. Unfortunately, the puck bounced directly to Nick Spaling, who shoveled it home. That would be the extent of the scoring until over 11 minutes elapsed in the third. Spurgeon left the ice in obvious pain favoring his left leg. He would not return until nearly 7 minutes into the 2nd period.
The Wild had plenty of good chances throughout the second and third periods, but couldn’t get any behind Predators netminder Chris Mason. A couple of odd man rushes, including a beauty by Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, failed to find the twine. Nashville played a tight, grinding defensive game, forcing the Wild to fight for offensive chances. Even when chances came, Mason was up to the task, totaling 29 saves on the night. The game winning goal came on a strange 4 on 4 play that started on the stick of Parise. A pass back to Spurgeon on the point went wide, rolling on edge, toward Niklas Backstrom. The Wild goalie charged out of the net, racing Martin Erat to the puck. Backstrom got there first, but his clearing attempt hit Erat in the leg. The forward gathered in the puck, avoided a diving Backstrom and slid a backhander into an empty net. Score Nashville 2, Wild 1. After the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said “That’s a tough bounce. It was right in between for him. It’s easy to look at Backy, but he played a great game up until that point. That puck couldn’t have been in a worse place.” The Predators added a third goal after a defensive giveaway during a power play in the last minute of the game. David Legwand scored on a feed from Nick Spaling in what would be the first goal the Minnesota penalty killers have allowed this season. Final score 3-1, Nashville.
There is still some rust the Wild need to shake off of their game. Head oach Yeo is glad for a break before the team heads to Detroit. He said “Having a couple days of practice will be good,we’ve got a lot of things we’re still trying to do.” With only three games under their belt this season, a lot of chemistry between linemates still needs to develop. The Wild have 4 solid lines and two excellent goaltenders. Even though 2 precious points slipped away tonight, there are still 45 games to play. It’s early and players throughout the league are still getting into game shape. You can skate with buddies, hold unofficial practices and work out, but, until you lace ‘em up for real, it’s just keeping toned and ready. The flashes of brilliance we have seen in just three Minnesota Wild game are going to get brighter and brighter over the next couple of weeks. The Minnesta boys are 2-1-0 and face a struggling Red Wings squad on Friday in Detroit. Joe Louis Arena has not been kind to the Wild. That is something I think the Wild can change this season. GonePuckWild.com will keep you posted as the first roadie of the year looms on the horizon.