The Minnesota Wild proved it will work to win the tough points in gritty games, as they took two from Nashville in the Music City on Saturday night. The win came on the back of the Wild’s un-sexiest lineup, as the fourth line saw increased ice time and played an important role in the game.
Wild coach Mike Yeo reinserted Zenon Konopka into the roster to skate with Torrey Mitchell and Mike Rupp on the fourth line. The physical trio ramped up its time on the ice and was the most successful of the Wild’s forward groups on the forecheck against a Nashville defense that did not give up easy offensive possessions.
It was clear the game would be a low-scoring affair, as both teams entered the contest as top-10 defenses in the league, but also two of the lowest producing offenses. In what became a neutral zone battle, Minnesota’s forwards were stood up at the blue line and resorted to dumping the puck deep from the red line or chipping into the corners from outside the zone.
The fourth liners worked the system, though, and the Wild got the points from their soon-to-be division rivals.
Wild forward Matt Cullen said in a post-game interview the atmosphere felt like the playoffs. Tensions were certainly high with Ryan Suter being booed by the Nashville crowd every time he hopped the boards. If this was a playoff atmosphere, though, the Wild showed they can hang tough.
Getting gritty and winning a low-scoring, hard-hitting game against a Nashville team that went to the Western Conference semifinals last season shows the Wild have the depth and the determination to get to the postseason.
Seeing the 243-pound Rupp and Minnesota’s PIM leader Konopka on the ice for about 11 minutes each didn’t hurt the Wild’s toughness factor, either.