Sunday evening’s match up between the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild boasted many important implications regarding the standings. With Minnesota holding on to the last Wild Card spot for the playoffs, Nashville had a tremendous opportunity to come within six points of the Wild. Both teams came into the game having played on Saturday night, and the team that took full advantage of their opportunities was going to be the one that walked away with the two points. For the Predators, Sunday night’s game turned out to be one of the most frustrating ones of the season, as they lost 4-0 in front of a crowd of 16,221.
There are many story-lines to be included in Sunday’s game between the Wild and the Predators. Of note was that this game was Jon Blum’s first game back at Bridgestone Arena since joining the Wild organization. For the season opener, he was with the Wild’s farm team in Iowa. Needless to say, the Predators fans in attendance were still upset with Ryan Suter, and hastily let the defenseman know it every time he touched the puck, which began as soon as the puck was dropped in the first period.
Frustrations began early in the game for the Predators as they weren’t able to get pucks on net to create scoring opportunities. Many shots missed the net or weren’t quality chances as redirects.
“Tonight, I think we threw at least 60 pucks towards the net,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “They did a great job of blocking and forcing us to miss the net a little bit.”
Nashville goaltender Marek Mazanec was tested early in the first, including a save on Charlie Coyle speeding in on a break. Midway through the first, the Predators were given an opportunity on the power play when the Wild took a too many men on the ice call. During the power play, Nashville was not able to get set up, and the Wild forced multiple turnovers, clearing the puck often.
Following the penalty kill, Viktor Stalberg turned the puck over at the Wild blue line, creating an odd man rush. Ryan Suter entered the zone, flipped the puck over to Coyle, who then dished a pass to Dany Heatley, where he promptly deflected the puck in the net past Mazanec at 12:03 for his ninth of the season.
“We were just trying to make plays,” spoke Suter on the goal. “When you have the puck, you’re looking for your best option. I gave it to Heatley, who gave it to Coyle, who then gave it back to Heatley. It was a good play by those guys, I didn’t do much.”
Just two minutes later, the Wild were able to take advantage of another Predators turnover near the blue line, this time by Ryan Ellis. Heatley picks up the puck, enters the zone and passes off to Jason Zucker, who tips it past Mazanec. With the two-on-one rush created by the turnover, there was not much defenseman Kevin Klein could do to prevent the goal at 14:15.
“Those are guys, especially (Dany) Heatley, he’s a guy when he gets going he can be a really confident and strong player,” said Eric Nystrom on the early lead by the Wild and Dany Heatley. “He got a goal early and when a guy like that is feeling good he becomes dangerous.”
The teams entered the first intermission with the Wild in complete control of the game’s momentum and the shots 11-5.
Trying to get some sort of energy going for the team and the crowd, as well as releasing frustrations, Paul Gaustad dropped the gloves with Clayton Stoner. The fight ended abruptly and unfortunately didn’t do much to ignite the team. Below, Gaustad speaks about the frustrations of Sunday’s game and why he decided to fight Stoner.
Continuing on the slow start to the game for Nashville, they just could not muster many opportunities as Minnesota’s defense clamped down. It wasn’t until late in the second period that the Predators showed signs of life including some frenzied attempts and a Weber bomb from the point. At 17:29, Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper, made a phenomenal glove save on Matt Cullen’s backhand attempt.
The Predators would enter the second intermission down 2-0, but gained some ground in shots, holding Minnesota to only three in the period while attempting nine.
If Nashville was looking to gain some momentum after that late onslaught in the second, it was quickly lost early in the third when Matt Cooke scored his sixth of the season at 1:14. After a flurry in front of the net, Justin Fontaine found Cooke in front of an empty net where Mazanec was still scrambling to get back to the crease following the action around him.
Nashville made some attempts to answer, but Kuemper and the Wild defense made sure that the puck would not cross the line. Following a kerfuffle in front of the net, Matt Hendricks is called for roughing, putting Minnesota on the power play again. The Predators were able to kill the penalty, which resulted in a Hendricks breakaway attempt that was broken up by Jonas Brodin.
Midway through the third, the Wild put the nail in the coffin when Marco Scandella received the puck off the the face off and flung it toward the net for his third of the season. With so much traffic in front, Mazanec didn’t get a chance to see the puck until it was too late.
After a few late rush attempts by the Predators, Minnesota sealed the 4-0 victory and the first shutout of Darcy Kuemper’s career. The Predators are now 1-2-1 during this home stand and have a tremendous opportunity on Tuesday when they take on a Calgary team that has lost three in a row and is 2-8 in their last ten games.
“Every game is huge, tonight was huge and we didn’t get it so we need to move onto Calgary now and play them,” said Shea Weber in going into Tuesday’s game.
The video below is from head coach Barry Trotz’s post game press conference where he speaks about the frustrations of Sunday’s loss.