The Nashville Predators faced the Minnesota Wild at the Bridgestone Arena in a game that had great significance for the Predators. With a win, they could move into 4th place, one point ahead of Detroit and 2 points ahead of Chicago.
The Predators accomplished their mission by defeating the Wild in a shootout for a 2-1 win.
It wasn't pretty, but fortunately, they do not give style points for a win.
Anders Lindback got the start for the Predators, giving Pekka Rinne a night off. Niklas Backstrom got the start for the Wild.
The first period was scoreless, with Minnesota holding a 12-10 shot advantage. Both teams struggled at times trying to establish some offensive flow. The effort by both teams was not helped by a bouncing puck on ice that was less than ideal.
Troubling for the Predators was the three penalties that they took in the first period. The Predators PK was stellar, and Lindback made some good saves. For the Predators, this spate of penalties does not bode well, and they are going to have to play with more discipline.
In the second period, the Predators got on the board first as Gabriel Bourque tallied his 7th goal of the season off a nice pass from Nick Spaling at 12:31. The line of Spaling, Bourque, and Patric Hornqvist was the best line for the Predators tonight, playing with lots of jump and creating some chances. Bourque continues his strong play, with 7 points (4G-3A) in his last 9 games.
The Wild tied the game at 17:53 of the second as Nate Prosser fired a puck toward the net. Dany Heatley got his stick on the shot and re-directed the puck past Lindback.
The third period was scoreless, but the Predators resumed their march to the penalty box, taking three penalties in the period. The last came from Andrei Kostitsyn at 19:48. Heading into OT, the Wild would have a 4 on 3 advantage.
The Predators PK once again came up with a big kill in OT to preserve the tie. Neither team could find the net, with the Wild mustering only 2 shots on net. The Predators were even more anemic in the OT, with only 1 shot.
In the shootout, Lindback stopped Erik Christensen and Backstrom stopped Marty Erat in the first round.
In the second round, Lindback stoned Mikko Koivu, while Alexander Radulov beat Backstrom with a forehand.
With the game on the line, Lindback stopped Devin Setoguchi, and the Predators had captured the precious second point.
For Lindback, this was his first shootout of his career, and he came up big in a pressure situation.
This win was obviously important, and it was good to get the victory and the points. For the Predators, there is still fine tuning that is needed in their game. This team appears to need to get their lines in sync and rolling as they head to the playoffs.
The top line of Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Marty Erat were held to 3 shots on goal and never threatened Backstrom. The second line of Radulov, Andrei Kostitsyn, and David Legwand were not much better, mustering 4 shots on goal. Legwand had 3 and Radulov 1. For the Predators, these top two lines need to get rolling heading into the playoffs.
Yes, the Wild play a trap that can smother their opponents offensive efforts, but these players are the ones that the Predators count on to generate chances. In the next two games, these lines have to develop a nose for the net and create some chances. Tonight, they were not doing that.
Kudos to the Predators PK. The undisciplined play of the Predators could have hurt against a dangerous team like the Wild. The PK unit managed to kill off all 6 penalties, but paramount for the Predators is to limit the march to the box that they have done in their last 2 games.
I have to also single out Lindback for his play tonight. He did and excellent job of being positionally sound and controlling rebounds. He was solid in net tonight, and it is a plus for the Predators having his play elevate in these critical games.
With the win, the Predators go to 100 points. They control their destiny with 2 regular season games remaining. Win and potentially secure home ice.
The task starts Thursday against the Stars.
My three stars:
1. Anders Lindback
2. Gabriel Bourque
3. Dany Heatley