Nashville Predators 6, Minnesota Wild 2: Johansen, Josi shine in fight-filled win

The evening was riddled with penalties, and also goals. Yes, it is still 2022.

The Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild faced off at Bridgestone Arena tonight in a battle for Central Division positioning.

The last four words of that sentence seemed to be lost on the players, as within the first three minutes of the game first Michael McCarron and Jacob Middleton, then Mark Borowiecki and Marcus Foligno, had dropped the gloves and taken their seats in the sin bin.

With 3:15 elapsed, Brandon Duhaime high-sticked Dante Fabbro and joined the crowd in the Wild’s penalty box as the Preds got a chance on the power play. The first unit had some chances early, but Marc-Andre Fleury handled everything they threw at him, and it looked as if the power play was going to fizzle. However, Roman Josi scored with just seconds left in the skater advantage to give the Preds an early lead.

Alex Goligoski almost immediately tried to respond for the Wild, but Juuse Saros made the save and the Preds regained possession. A few moments of back-and-forth play later, Tanner Jeannot was called for high-sticking and the Wild got a chance on the power play. The Preds killed the penalty off and then went back up the ice. Fleury lost his stick in a netfront demonstration of physics, after making a save on Mark Borowiecki off of a fantastic pass from Filip Forsberg, but a stoppage in play prevented the Preds from taking advantage.

Mark Borowiecki got in his second fight of the evening at 10:43, this one against Nicolas Deslauriers. Moments later, a defensive miscommunication between Dante Fabbro and Mattias Ekholm, and Ekholm losing his balance trying to recover the puck, gave Mats Zuccarello a massive stretch of open ice and allowed him to score to tie the game 1-1.

Kevin Fiala almost immediately took a slashing penalty, sending the Preds back to the power play. This time, instead of it taking most of the power play, Ryan Johansen was able to score just seconds in to restore the Preds’ one-goal lead. With 5:41 remaining in the period, Colton Sissons interfered against Jordan Greenway and the whistle for the penalty allowed the game to devolve into a mass scuffle. Zuccarello rang iron early, but the Preds were able to hold firm and kill off the penalty.

The teams traded chances until Kirill Kaprizov went for a hefty cross-check against Nick Cousins. The Preds gained the zone on the delayed penalty, but didn’t get a shot off before Greenway was able to touch up, and the penalty was officially called with about a minute and a half left in the period. A shot pass from Josi to Johansen let Johansen score his second of the period to give the Preds a 3-1 lead, with just under a minute in the period.

Then, with 31.2 seconds left in the first, Luke Kunin tripped Jared Spurgeon, sending the Wild back to the power play as well. Kaprizov got tangled up with a linesman, but that didn’t slow the Wild down much, as Saros had to make a massive save against Ryan Hartman swooping in effectively 1-on-0. Fortunately, the Preds defenders were there in time to get the rebound out of danger, and time ran out in the middle of an offensive cycle, giving the Preds a break.

When the second period began, the Preds were able to finish killing off the penalty, and the teams once again traded shots before another fight broke out—this one between Jeremy Lauzon and Brandon Duhaime at 3:24 of the second. Less than a minute later, Matt Dumba collided with McCarron late. McCarron was slow to get up, and Dumba headed down the tunnel, leaving his interference penalty to be served by Zuccarello. He did not return for the game.

For a change, the Preds did not score on the power play, but just as it expired Philip Tomasino collected a gorgeous pass from Josi to give the Preds a 4-1 lead. A collision with the net delayed play for a while, and then the Wild ran away with most of the rest of the second period.

With four minutes left, Luke Kunin hooked Dmitry Kulikov, and with 55 seconds left in that penalty Alexandre Carrier went for a blatant cross-check against Kaprizov, The Wild scored towards the end of that 5-on-3, as Kaprizov collected his own rebound and put it past Saros, and returned to the 5-on-4 power play. The Preds managed a shorthanded chance, but the Wild went right back on the attack. Saros had to make a save without his stick, and did, and Carrier escaped the box without further damage.

The Preds pushed back some to start the third period, though the Wild kept them to the lower-danger areas of the ice, and with a little over six minutes elapsed in the period Kunin took another penalty, this one a high stick against Zuccarello. Saros once again was leaned on heavily, and passed the test, both on the penalty kill and against a great pair of chances from Hartman and Zuccarello after it.

Saros was rewarded for his hard work by a renewed offensive push from the Preds, which culminated in Matt Duchene scoring on a fantastic shot to put the Preds up 5-2, and the Wild pulled Fleury with around four and a half minutes left in regulation to try to make up the goals.

With 6.1 seconds left in the game, Johansen finally made it to the empty net, scoring his first NHL hat trick after receiving a very generous pass from Tomasino. Juuse Saros, who made 47 saves, also had a spectacular evening.