Zucker scores twice as Kuemper, Wild beat Predators
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Minnesota’s record-breaking success on the road continues.
Jason Pominville scored with 2:03 remaining in regulation to give the Wild a 4-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
Jason Zucker scored twice and Marco Scandella had the other goal for Minnesota, which extended its franchise-record road winning streak to 12 games.
"We were better as the game went on," Pominville said. "We controlled more of the play in the second period. Guys kind of calmed down and made more plays."
Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones had the goals for Nashville, loser of the last five games. When St. Louis beat Chicago, it meant the Predators can’t win the Central Division, which belongs to the Blues. Nashville will finish in the No. 2 spot in the Central and hold home-ice advantage in the first round against either Chicago or Minnesota.
"We came out and were able to score a couple of goals right away, but then the first period, the remainder of time after that, we sat back too much and that continued on into the second period," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "You could kind of see it coming and we couldn’t stop it."
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper saw his first action in the NHL since Jan. 20.
After starting 39 consecutive games, Devan Dubnyk finally got a rest Thursday. Having a playoff spot clinched, the Wild also did not dress their top three goal scorers: Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, and Thomas Vanek.
"We had a lot of guys out tonight and everyone just kind of stepped up," Kuemper said. "We stuck with it right to the end. Early deficit and we just kind of chipped away at it."
Kuemper made 32 saves.
"When we needed him most, that’s when he was at his best, that’s for sure," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "We’ve never lost confidence in him."
Late in the third with the game tied 2-2, Jared Spurgeon sent a pass from the right point to Pominville in the high slot. He fired a slap shot past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne on the stick side.
Forsberg scored the game’s first goal 2:58 in with a slap shot from above the right faceoff circle that beat Kuemper high to the far side. Jones made it 2-0 with a wrist shot from the right point through traffic.
Forsberg leads Nashville with 25 goals on the season.
Minnesota answered back with two goals in 31 seconds late in the second period.
Zucker scored a power-play goal when Justin Fontaine had the puck in the left corner and whipped a pass to Zucker all alone in front.
After missing 29 games with a broken clavicle, Zucker has three goals in two games since returning to the lineup.
Scandella followed with a wrist shot from the right goal post that beat Rinne high to the far side just underneath the crossbar.
"It’s not good enough," Nashville captain Shea Weber said. "We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and realize what it’s going to take to win, especially going forward here. Maybe it’s a good wakeup call so we can realize we’re not playing good enough hockey going into the playoffs."
Zucker added an empty-net goal with a minute remaining in the match.