Road Reaction: Wild 4, Predators 2
There would be no letdown for the Minnesota Wild against the NHL’s top team on Thursday.
Following a disappointing home loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, Minnesota went on the road and beat the Predators 4-2. Nashville, who leads the NHL in points, had previously lost three home games all season before the Wild earned their 14th win in the past 19 games.
A lackluster first period had hurt Minnesota in the loss to Edmonton, which has the worst record in the Western Conference. But the Wild had energy from the beginning on Thursday, led by an unexpected source.
Minnesota’s fourth line of Erik Haula, Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine pressured all night. Haula and Brodziak scored goals and Fontaine narrowly missed when he had a shot from the slot bounce off the crossbar. Haula, Brodziak and Fontaine combined for seven shots and helped the Wild sustain offensive momentum against Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.
Haula opened the scoring as Minnesota has struck first in 12 of its last 15 games. The Wild have won 13 of its last 14 games when scoring first.
The victory propelled Minnesota back into eighth place in the West, one point ahead of Calgary. The Wild have now earned points in 16 of their last 19 games and own an NHL-best 25 points in 15 games since the All-Star break.
1. Haula, F, Wild: Haula scored for just the second time in 16 games with a big shot from the point for his sixth goal of the season. His four shots on goal were the second most in a game this season and most since he had five on Oct. 19. Haula won four of his six faceoffs, including setting up Brodziak’s goal.
2. Brodziak, F, Wild: Brodziak scored for just the second time in 18 games and snapped an eight-game goal-less streak. Haula won a faceoff in the offensive zone back to Brodziak, who one-timed a big slap shot to beat Rinne for his eighth goal of the season. Brodziak won eight of the 12 faceoffs he took Thursday in a return to center on the fourth line.
3. Nino Niederreiter, F, Wild: It’s not often a two-goal game, including the game-winner, will get you the third star, but it speaks to the energy and momentum created by Haula, Brodziak and Fontaine. Niederreiter scored the game-winner on a nifty move in front of Rinne after taking a good pass from Charlie Coyle. Niederreiter later added an empty-net goal, sending the puck almost the length of the ice for the score, to notch his 21st of the season.
Niederreiter played a physical game, equaling Marco Scandella for the team lead with three hits, adding a blocked shot.
Seen: New forward Sean Bergenheim was in the lineup for the first time, wearing No. 23 and skating on a line with Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek. Bergenheim and Koivu had played together in Finland in the past and made a natural connection in Bergenheim’s first game since being acquired in a trade on Tuesday night.
Bergenheim hadn’t even had the chance to practice with his new team until Thursday’s morning skate. He made his presence felt early, including creating a turnover that turned into a scoring chance for himself on a slap shot. Bergenheim finished with four shots on goal, two hits, a blocked shot and two takeaways.
Next: Minnesota travels to Colorado for a late start on Saturday night. The game begins at 9 p.m. The Wild are on a short two-game road trip before returning home Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators.
Minnesota is 3-0-0 this season against Colorado, having shut out the Avalanche in every game. Darcy Kuemper opened the season with back-to-back shutouts against Colorado, and Devan Dubnyk made 18 saves for a shutout in the last meeting between the two teams on Feb. 7.
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