The Minnesota Wild beat the Nashville Predators in a shootout at Nationwide Arena by a final score of 2-1. It was a night of returns for the Wild. Cal Clutterbuck returned to game action after a stint on IR, missing 6 games and Ryan Suter returned to Nashville for the first time since signing with Minnesota. It wasn’t hard to tell when Suter was on the ice or touched the puck as the Nashville crowd boo’d him lustily. It’s strange isn’t it that when a player is traded away fans react differently than when a player leaves through free agency. I guess they feel jilted by the player who left. It’s really management who controls both situations however. Oh well, Suter is with the Wild now and not going anywhere any time soon. He had an assist on Minnesota’s only goal of the night, launching a shot from near the blue line that was tipped past Pekka Rinne by Zach Parise. The Wild played very well defensively throughout the game, frustrating the Predators time and time again. The Wild held Nashville to 25 shots total, which included just 1 shot in overtime. Niklas Backstrom was fantastic in net tonight making several key saves and shutting down Nashville’s shooters shot after shot. Backstrom is now 20-2-4 in games after a game in which he has been pulled. The lone goal the Predator’s scored came on a power play as David Legwand took the puck off of Cal Clutterbuck‘s stick and flipped it past Backstrom.
The Wild had a good start to the game and there was no mistaking when #20, Suter cam on the ice. The Nashville fans boo’d him throughout the 28:59 he played. Suter had more minutes than any other player on the ice tonight. After the game Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “For the way the team played for him (Suter) you could tell our guys wanted to get this one for him.” Suter’s stat line on the night reads, 1 assist, 2 shots on goal, 2 penalty minutes, a 0 +/- rating. He was all over the ice playing in all situations, so it was just another game for Suter.
The first period of the game was a hard hitting defensive affair. Neither team could break through and put one in the net however. The Predator’s out shot the Wild 9 to 5 and also had the period’s only power play. Kyle Brodziak went to the box for tripping at the 12:26 mark. The Wild’s 5th ranked penalty killing units had little trouble shutting down the Nashville power play (that time). Minnesota lead the NHL with the fewest minor penalties against with just 77 so far this season. When major penalties are factored in, the Wild average just 10.8 minutes of penalty time per game. The Predators have taken 17 more penalties than Minnesota and would accumulate 6 minors on the evening. The Wild took just 3 penalties all game. Both teams scored one on the power play, the only goals scored for both sides. The Wild have now killed 23 of 25 penalties over the last few games.
The Wild would score their only regulation goal of the night during the second period. With Nashville’s Bobby Butler in the box for hooking Minnesota’s top power play unit went in to action. A Mikko Koivu pass found Suter at the blue line, his slap shot was tipped in by Zach Parise. The assist on the goal raised Suter’s point streak to 6 games. He is now tied with Koivu for the team lead in assists at 15. Zach Parise leads the Wild in goals with 9. The power play marker also was the third game in a row Minnesota has scored with the man advantage. The rest of the period and game for that matter, Nashville did an efficient job of negating the Wild’s forecheck by moving the puck out of the zone quickly.
The Predator’s tied the score in the 3rd period with Suter in the penalty box for roughing. This was just the second Minnesota penalty kill of the game. David Legwand scored the tying goal with the assists going to Sergei Kostitsyn and Shea Weber. For the game Nashville was 1 for 2 on the power play while the Wild went 1 for 5. Regulation ended with a 1-1 final score. The Wild controlled play in the OT session and had a great chance to win the game when Predators’ goalie Pekka Rinne was whistled for playing the puck outside of the trapezoid. During the ensuing 4 on 3 power play the Wild came close several times but just couldn’t put the puck past Rinne. At the conclusion of the OT period the Wild held a 6 to 1 shot advantage and a 29 to 25 differential for the game.
For the shootout Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo sent out the same three shooter he has used each shootout this season. Parise, Koivu, and Cullen. Nashville Coach Barry Trotz countered with Gabriel Bourque, Craig Smith, and David Legwand. The Wild shot first with Rinne stopping the puck as Parise made a deke move and tried to stuff the puck in on the left side. The next two Wild shooters Koivu and Parise would use similar moves to get the Predator net minder to move to his left, opening the 5-hole, and allowing the Wild shooters to slide the puck underneath and into the net. Two Nashville shooters were stoned by Backstrom with only Smith scoring on a slowdown move that froze the Wild goalie allowing a snapshot to beat him. The Wild are now 3-1 in shootouts this year. Post game Coach Yeo was pleased with his team’s effort saying, “I thought our leadership was outstanding tonight. That really helped set the stage for a great road win.”
The Wild take two points tonight and will move up in the Western Conference standings for sure. They have another chance at two points in St. Paul tomorrow as they face the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks are already in St. Paul, while the Wild arrive home laste tonight and lose another hour of sleep due to daylight savings time starting at 2am. A regulation win over Vancouver Sunday night will move the Wild into 1st place in the Northwest Division and third place in the Western Conference. This promises to be an exciting matchup at the Xcel Energy Center. After tonight’s action Wild Captain Koivu said, “Big test for us tomorrow night at home.” The Wild have little time to enjoy the win over Nashville before facing the Canucks. GonePuckWild.com will be with you each step of the way. Tonight was a fun game and tomorrow will be intense as the division lead is on the line. Until the Wild fans…LET’S GO WILD!!!