The Minnesota Wild needed to bounce back after a terrible loss at home to the conference’s worst team. They did just that with a 4-2 victory over the Nashville Predators, the league’s best team, Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.
Erik Haula found himself in the doghouse after playing a factor in the Edmonton Oilers’ winning goal on Tuesday, but he combined with Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine to score two goals. That line was the best on the ice for either team.
Haula and Brodziak gave the Wild their first two leads of the game that stemmed any momentum the Predators were building. Haula scored first with a one-timer from the blue line off a pass from Fontaine. The shot deflected off Predators defenseman Cody Franson.
After the Predators got on the board 16 seconds into the second period, Brodziak gave the Wild their second lead just under seven minutes later. Haula won an offensive zone face-off and Brodziak one-timed the loose puck past Pekka Rinne on the short side.
Nino Niederreiter then provided the game-winning and insurance goals for his 20th and 21st of the season. He broke a 2-2 tie at the 9:48 mark of the second period for the game-winning tally off a tic-tac-toe play. He finished a great passing play from Jordan Schroeder to Charlie Coyle to him. He then put the game away with one minute and 39 seconds remaining in the game with a nearly full-length empty-net goal. He corralled a loose puck at the top of the crease, turned and fired the puck just inside the post at the other end of the ice.
The Predators (41-14-7) got on the board when Matt Cullen fed Mike Fisher one-timer in the high slot. The shot bounced off the goal post, then the back of Devan Dubnyk and into the net. Cullen and Fisher combined to set Craig Smith up for a break to tie the game at 2-2 at the 8:31 mark of the middle frame.
The Wild (32-22-7) jumped the Calgary Flames again for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
No. 3 – Nino Niederreiter. The Wild forward scored two goals.
No. 2 – Erik Haula. The Wild forward recorded a goal and an assist.
No. 1 – Kyle Brodziak. The Wild forward had a goal and an assist.
Minnesota……1 2 1 – 4
Nashville…..…0 2 0 – 2
First Period – 1, Minnesota, Haula 5 (Fontaine, Brodziak), 17:35. Penalties – Cullen, NSH (tripping), 5:20.
Second Period – 2, Nashville, Fisher 14 (Cullen, Ekholm), :16. 3, Minnesota, Brodziak 8 (Haula), 7:12. 4, Nashville, Smith 20 (Fisher, Cullen), 8:31. 5, Minnesota, Niederreiter 20 (Coyle, Schroeder), 9:48 Penalties – Smith, NSH (tripping), 15:19, Granlund, MIN (hooking), 18:14.
Third Period – 6, Minnesota, Niederreiter 21 (unassisted), 18:21. Penalties – Granlund, MIN (interference), 6:09.
Shots on goal – Minnesota 10-10-10 30. Nashville 9-8-12 29.
Goalies – Minnesota, Dubnyk (27-29). Nashville, Rinne (26-29). Referees – Eric Furlatt, Ghislain Hebert. Linesmen – Bryan Pancich, Mark Wheler.