The Minnesota Wild soundly defeated the Nashville Predators 5-2 in a game where the Preds had plenty of chances but could not convert them into goals on the scoreboard.
The 3-0 first period Minnesota lead appeared insurmountable for a Predator team that had scored only three goals in their last three games.
The Wild received two goals from Martin Havlat, and single goals from Nick Schultz and ex-Preds Andrew Brunette and Marek Zidlicky.
The Predators had two power play goals in a game for the first time since October 13, in their third game of the season against the Blues. Steve Sullivan and Martin Erat got the markers for the Preds.
Jose Theodore stopped 32 of 34 Predator shots, claiming his third win of the season. Pekka Rinne started for the Preds and stopped six of nine shots before being pulled at the end of the first period. Anders Lindback stopped twelve of fourteen shots in mop-up duty.
The game started with several chances for both teams early. The Wild had one play where Shea Weber rescued the puck from behind Rinne. Steve Sullivan came close on a shot, hitting the post at 4:38.
Zidlicky was called for tripping Marty Erat at 5:54 and the Preds continued their anemia on the power play with two shots but no score.
Minnesota struck first at 12:22 on an odd play where Zidlicky skated out of the corner and shot the puck into the left side of the Preds’ net, corralled his own rebound, and then slid it under Rinne’s skate to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.
The Wild made it 2-0 at 15:57 when Weber and Ryan Suter were unable to contain Brunette in front of the crease. Rinne had gone down early on the first shot and Brunette followed with one over Rinne’s shoulder. A minute later, John Madden hit the pipe in an near goal that would have pretty much put the game out of reach for the offensively challenged Preds. At 18:12, they did get the third goal when Havlat skated from the blueline to the net and plowed over Rinne to make it 3-0.
The Predators sent Anders Lindback into the game to start the second and he managed to give up a goal 48 second into the period to put the Wild ahead 4-0. Havlat picked up a turnover and shot as he entered the Preds’ zone. A big rebound went to the opposite side and Schultz made a good shot on Lindback who had actually squared up well.
Jordin Tootoo put the Wild on their first power play at 3:12 after an unsportsmanlike conduct call. The Wild had no shots but the Preds managed two shorthanded shots.
At 12:06, Weber gave the Wild another man advantage when he was called for holding Madden who was on a breakaway. The Wild managed a shot but mercifully did not get a goal.
The Predators got their first power play goal in six games at 3:55 in the third period when Sullivan picked up a rebound and slipped it past Theodore to get the Preds on the board and made the score 4-1.
Tootoo managed to draw a cross checking penalty at 9:43 when he lured Eric Nystrom. With 1:18 left in the penalty, Zidlicky was called for tripping to give the Preds a five on three advantage. The Preds managed three shots during the two penalty combination but gave the Wild several opportunities for a short handed goal at the other end.
Minnesota got retribution on Tootoo at 13:53 when Clayton Stoner had a go with Tootoo after a solid check that sent both of them to the box with fighting majors.
Matt Cullen made a perfect pass to Havlat at 14:02 that gave him a free shot at the left side of the net for an easy goal to put the Wild back up by four, 5-1.
As the game wound down at 18:40, Kyle Brodziak was called for tripping Patric Hornqvist. Amazingly, with 8.5 seconds left in the game, Erat wristed a shot from circle that was screened by Marcel Goc and made it into the net for the Preds’ second power play goal of the game, making the final score 5-2.
The Predators continue their series of losses where they find different ways to lose each time. In this game, the power play actually worked, while the defense allowed the opponent to jump ahead early making a come back virtually impossible.
Nashville returned home immediately after the game and will face the New York Rangers at 7 p.m. on Saturday with hopes of breaking the current three game losing streak.