Wild 5, Predators 2
After a slow start, Martin Havlat is playing the way the Minnesota Wild expected.
Havlat scored twice and added an assist, and the Minnesota Wild scored on four of their first 11 shots to beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Friday.
Marek Zidlicky, Andrew Brunette and Nick Schultz also scored to help Minnesota end a two-game slide. The Wild had scored just 13 goals in their previous eight home games, not more than two in any of those. Jose Theodore stopped 32 shots for the win.
Havlat had just six assists in October, leading his agent to publicly question if Havalt was being properly used by the Wild. In his last seven games, Havlat has four goals and seven assists.
''I feel pretty good,'' Havlat said. ''I'm getting the opportunity to be on the ice in key situations. It doesn't matter if I score or anybody else, it's about winning the game. We won so it was a good afternoon.''
Steve Sullivan and Martin Erat scored for Nashville, which has scored just three times in its past three games. The Predators had allowed only four goals in their previous four games.
After scoring 29 goals with Chicago in 2008-09, Havlat signed with Minnesota as a free agent before last season, but scored just 18 goals and was a minus-19. Now, he leads the team with 20 points, including five goals.
''He's one of the best 1-on-1 guys in the league,'' Nashville defenseman Shane O'Brien said. ''If you give him time and space and don't put any back pressure on him, he's going to beat guys. Not too many defenders in the league can stop him when he's got time and space.''
In an effort to shake things up offensively, Wild coach Todd Richards changed his lines. The move paid off because all the Minnesota lines were more aggressive from the start than in the past two games, when the Wild were outscored 11-3.
''I thought we managed the puck really well and we were skating,'' Richards said. ''We were rewarded for the hard work.''
Pinching in from the right point, Zidlicky carried the puck out of the corner, shot it off the side of the net while cutting in front, and put his own rebound past Pekka Rinne at 12:22.
Brunette scored at 15:57 by fighting off Nashville's Shea Weber for two rebound attempts before the Wild left wing fluttered backhander past Rinne.
''One of our strengths in our six D. I thought they had a real average game today,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. ''They buried their chances, but they shouldn't have happened as easy as they did.''
Havlat made it 3-0 at 18:12 by cutting through the right circle, fighting off a check from Colin Wilson and sliding the puck past Rinne. Havlat has 13 goals and 21 assists against Nashville in his career, the most points against an opponent.
Schultz said the Wild need Havlat to return to his form of old.
''That's the Marty of old with speed like that and coming down making plays,'' Schultz said. ''He makes a move and gets it to the net. ... He's been playing well the last while. We can be a really good team when we get him going.''
Anders Lindback replaced Rinne to start the second period, and was greeted rudely when Schultz scored on a rebound 48 seconds in. Havlat took the puck away from Ryan Suter at the Predators' blue line to start the play.
Theodore, making his first home start since signing as a free agent Oct. 2 after Josh Harding tore his ACL and MCL, made his best saves midway through the second period. Theodore tried to clear the puck around his net, but it took a strange hop off the boards to Joel Ward at the edge of the crease. Theodore slid across for a pad stop and made a glove save on a rebound from the slot by Erat.
Sullivan scored on the power play early in the third period and Erat scored on the power play with 8.5 seconds left. Nashville has three power-play goals in its last 34 chances.
Between the goals, Havlat sped down the right side to tip a pass from Cullen into the Nashville net with 5:58 to play for his 30th career multigoal game.
NOTES: Minnesota last scored five even-strength goals Jan. 27, 2009, against Toronto. ... Minnesota has played a matinee home game the day after Thanksgiving each year in franchise history, going 7-2-1. ... The Predators started the season 5-0-3, but are 4-8-1 since. ... Nashville had not allowed a third-period goal in its previous six games.