In the middle of March, the Nashville Predators hosted the Minnesota Wild in a game which both teams desperately needed to keep their playoff hopes strong, but instead of offering a battle to the death, the Wild failed to show up at all and the Predators dominated en route to a 4-0 win. Pekka Rinne pitched a shutout, his 6th of the season, and the home team pulled away early to put this one out of reach before the first intermission, leading in shots 24-9 after two.
What a minute, that's pretty much the same script from March 18 of last year, but tonight's game was a near-duplicate of that game. Nick Spaling had his second 2-goal game at the NHL level (both against the Wild), including a marker in the 3rd period which sent the fans on their way to pick up free Frosties for the first time in nearly a month. David Legwand had two assists, and Joel Ward a goal and assist to lead the Nashville scorers as the team climbs past the Wild into 9th place in the Western Conference.
Follow after the jump for reaction and video highlights...
After Colorado comes in Saturday night, celebrate the Ides of March on Tuesday against Los Angeles, and St. Patrick's Day against the Boston Bruins next Thursday. Take the OTF Discount to save money on Nashville Predators tickets for these, or any other home game!
Let's begin with the video highlights and Wild vs Predators boxscore...
A few quick notes...
- With his +3 tonight, Ryan Suter now sits at +24 in the Plus/Minus, which could lead to a new franchise record. David Legwand holds the Predators' mark at +23 in 2006-7.
- You have to like the way that all three of those first-period goals came as the result of players driving the net. It was also good to see the Preds get rewarded on the scoreboard after so many recent games where they'd put up a ton of early shots, but fail to grab the lead.
- I do wonder if the Predators should find a little more ice time for Joel Ward on the power play. He leads the regulars in 5-on-4 goal-scoring rate currently, was 3rd on the team last season, and 2nd the year before that.
- Kevin Klein was able to skate tonight through his injury, relegating new callup Teemu Laakso to the press box alongside J.P. Dumont.
- Mike Fisher left the game 3:40 into the 3rd period, but there didn't appear to be anything unusual in his shift other than perhaps one decent hit he took along the boards near the end. There was no word yet as to why he didn't return.
Predator fans have been asking for their team to play 60 minutes of "Predator hockey". They didn't get that tonight. Instead, they were given 20 minutes of net crashing, playmaking, and stifling defense, followed by most of the net 20 minutes of defense and misfiring. then 20 minutes of Predator hockey.No complaints here, the Preds handled their task in regulation with a little extra credit.
The Preds out-shot the Wild, and never let the Wild use their effective backchecking and trapping to create chances. Pekka Rinne was good, but never had to put on his cape like in the past few games. Slick goals from Ward and Erat were both a large product of David Legwand. The Erat/Legwand/Ward line has carried the water for the Preds over the last few contests, being on the ice for seven of the last nine tallies.
Sandwiched in the middle is a laboring effort of Nick Spaling, who absolutely HATES the Wild (he's scored over half of his goals against Minnesota at Bridgestone Arena). And for good measure, Spaling added another after Shea Weber's slick move pulled Nicklas Backstrom out of the net yielding a juicy loose puck right above the crease. Easy pickin's for Spals.
All in all, this was a solid win for a team that sorely needed one. If the Preds plan on keeping their postseason plan off the fairways, they have to win at home. Tonight was a great way to start off the homestand, and with an Avalanche team that has already called it a season and will be playing the second half of a back-to-back coming in Saturday... the Preds needed to show their tigerblood tonight, and build some desperately needed momentum.
Ten more notes on the game:
- While Rinne does get credit for the shutout, plenty of thanks should go to his defense. When the team you're chasing in the playoffs is held to 9 shots through the first two periods, it's a good thing. The Wild finished with 19 shots on net, and a Kyle Brodziak clanger off the post during the early parts of the second.
- With the exception of the first few minutes of the second period, the Preds owned this game.
- What's even better about Spaling's second goal? It was on the 4-on-4. A rarity for this team.
- Kevin Klein toughed it out for over 19 minutes tonight. For a player that doesn't get much praise, he didn't make many mistakes on a night he was very vulnerable.
- His partner Jonathon Blum has been nothing short of a solid defenseman. He's every bit as smart as any rookie defenseman we've seen come through this team.
- Jordin Tootoo turned in a very good game from top to bottom. His chemistry with Geoffrion has been a nice surprise, and his work with Smithson has been very fun to watch.
- The Power Play? Meh, it didn't have the urgency needed to score, but understandable with the lead the Preds had.
- Patric Hornqvist had a nice duel with Marek Zidlicky, giving Preds fans with a good memory something to laugh at. After a scrum following a net area play, Hornqvist slammed Marek into the boards on the next rush.
- Martin Havlat was shadowed most of the night, only got off two shots. For a player depended on to carry the load while Mika Koivu recovers from injury, his minimal output sealed Minnesota's fate.
- While it's no Columbus Blue Jackets style streak, the Preds have taken care of the Wild in Nashville historically, going 12-1-3 against Minnesota.