The Predators took their third straight win last night, defeating the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on goals from Craig Smith, Mattias Ekholm, Filip Forsberg and Miikka Salomaki and another vintage performance from Pekka Rinne. Like Saturday night, it was another strong start for Nashville, creating chances and keeping control of the play, only this time, the effort continued throughout the game against better competition.
It was your typical Wild / Predators game… a little piss and vinegar mixed with some skill. The Predators came out strong and got off to a 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Craig Smith that Minnesota almost immediately matched sending the teams to the room tied at one, but Nashville’s offense showed some of that “spurtability” potting two quick goals in the second, both of them converting of outstanding feeds. Ryan Johansen fed Mattias Ekholm in the slot and the big blueliner hammered it home to re-ake the lead, then Kyle Turris picked off an errant Wild pass and promptly sprung Filip Forsberg on a breakaway to put the Preds up two.
That two goal lead would only last three minutes as Wild captain Mikko Koivu got his first of the year and gave Minnesota some much needed energy that they carried over into the third period as the Wild made a serious push. Fortunately for Pred Nation, Pekka Rinne was there, turning away chance after chance and preserving the victory, even surviving a late penalty that led to Mikka Salomaki’s empty netter with just a few seconds left to seal the win and give Smashville free Frostys.
The Wild are a bit of an enigma. There is some talent on this team, but the core group of players like MIkko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are starting to show their age… or may be better put (to quote Indiana Jones) “It’s not the age… it’s the mileage.” Don’t get me wrong, the Minnesota Wild may make the playoffs again, and they will probably bow out as quickly as they have in the past few springs. They have some decent young talent, it may be time to hand over the leadership reins to the youth on this team.
Nashville has looked solid in getting off to a 5-1-0 start. They have certainly got great goaltending from both Rinne and Juuse Saros. The JoFA line has been on fire since the jump, the FiST line is starting to come around as they are starting to finish the chances they are generating and the power play, 0-15 to start the season, has started to click with power play goals in each of the last two games.
So, after six games in 12 days, the Predators have a day or two off before heading to western Canada for a back to back with Calgary and Edmonton this weekend.
Here are the highlights…
- Nice little scrap between Matt Hendricks and Zac Rinaldo last night… always ironic because those are two of the nicest guys you will ever meet.
- In the irony department, Ryan Suter has been quoted as Pred Nation’s boos get him “fired up.” OK…
- Looking at the stats last night you may wonder how the Preds won it… the lost the faceoff battle as the Wild won 52% of the draws. They were outhit and almost doubled Minnesota’s giveaways.
- File this in the “It’s So Philly” file – When the Flyers mascot Gritty was introduced, it was to almost universal derision, including in Philadelphia. As soon as Philly fans saw that everyone was cracking on the new guy, they immediately fell in love with him.
- There is one undefeated team left in the NHL… the New Jersey Devils are 3-0-0 heading into tonight’s matchup with the Dallas Stars, who are coming off a 4-1 loss to Ottawa.
- There is another team that hasn’t lost in regulation, that’s the Chicago Blackhawks… gotte give ‘em credit, they are off to the kind of start they need to get back to the post-season.
- Speaking of the Blackhawks, is Coach Q sending a message? Brandon Saad may be a healthy scratch for the Hawks Thursday game against Arizona.
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