Early in their history, the Wild were a trapping team that would try to choke the life out of the opposition and rely on some timely goal scoring.
They did just that tonight, especially in the third period, as their trap game had the Predators completely out of sync.
The Wild opened the scoring off an Eric Haula blast that Pekka Rinne never saw.
Mike Fisher would tie the game as he muscled a puck past Devan Dubnyk. That lead would be short lived, however, as Kyle Brodziak would beat Rinne under the crossbar for a 2-1 lead.
Once again, the Predators tied the game as Mike Fisher sprung Craig Smith for a breakaway and he popped the puck under the crossbar.
The Predators couldn't keep the Wild off the board as the defense broke down and left Nino Neiderreiter alone in the slot and he beat Rinne to give the Predators a 3-2 lead. at the end of the second period.
The third period was when the Wild exerted their will and completely disrupted and smothered the Predators. The Preds had difficulty even entering the zone, and when they did they rarely challenged Dubnyk.
Neiderreiter sealed the win with an empty net goal.
- This game is an indication of the type of games that will be played in the playoffs, and the Predators have struggled this season with these types of games where the opponent aggressively forechecks them all game. The Predators were completely out of rhythm in the third period, having trouble getting through the neutral zone and setting up their offense. This is something the Predators are going to have to improve markedly if they want to have success in the playoffs.
- This game also pointed out that the Predators need a truly talented center that can carry and distribute the puck. This is the most glaring weakness on the roster right now, and I don't know if it can (or will) be corrected at the trade deadline.
- The Predators wilted under the pressure from the Wild and were a turnover machine tonight. The Predators turned it over 17 times to just 6 for the Wild.
- Since being acquired by the Wild, Dubnyk is 14-3-2. He has played well, and the Wild do an excellent job of protecting him in front of the net. Dubnyk was spitting out rebounds, but rarely did the Predators get to them for second chance opportunities.
- Mike Ribeiro did not have a good game. He had 3 giveaways, was a non-factor in the offensive zone, and was a -3 on the night. He won just 38% of his faceoffs.
- Craig Smith reached the 20 goal club for the second year in a row. He has 8 points (6G-2A) in his last 7 games.
- Roman Josi has settled in on the top D pairing with Shea Weber. How has he compared this season with the man he replaced, Ryan Suter? This season, Josi has 44 points (11G-33A) and is a +20. Suter has 30 points (2G-28A) and is a -1. I like our replacement better.
- Ryan Ellis returned to action after missing 21 games with a knee injury. He was paired with Seth Jones on the third D pair.
- Interestingly, Ellis and Cody Franson (who was on the second D pair with Mattias Ekholm) did not see the ice for the final 10 minutes of the game. Ellis played 11:29 and Franson played 12:50.
There are some things that need to be tweaked and improved upon. I believe this team will do that in the regular season games remaining.
My three stars:
1. Nino Neiderreiter
2. Mike Fisher
3. Kyle Brodziak