The team got off to a slow start in the first period. Rich Clune got into a fight with Zenon Konopka at 2:18, and failed to fire anybody up. Minnesota took advantage of the slow start, spending a lot of time in Nashville’s zone. The Wild got on the board first when Dany Heatley fired a shot from the high slot; Kevin Klein reached up for the puck and tipped it, redirecting it to beat Chris Mason and make the score 1-0.
Nashville gathered itself and got into the game after the goal, but it had to go back on the defensive after Nick Spaling came into the Minnesota zone on the forecheck and accidentally tripped a Wild player at 12:16. The Preds killed the penalty, and then Spaling got Nashville on the board with a nice wrister from a Backstrom rebound to make it 1-1:
The score stayed tied throughout the second period and into the third, with Nashville controlling most of the play but unable to get clean scoring chances against the Wild’s defensive system. Then came the game-breaker. Minnesota had managed to push Nashville back into their zone before the puck took a strange bounce and cleared the blue line with low momentum, carrying it towards the Minnesota zone. Martin Erat got out ahead of the play while Niklas Backstrom left his net to play the puck. Backstrom got there first, but Erat deflected the goalie’s clearing attempt and came up with the puck. He recovered, skated over to the goal, and tucked the puck away unassisted, making the score 2-1:
With the lead in hand, Nashville had to withstand heavy pressure from Minnesota in the final minutes. Chris Mason was forced to make several big saves and he did so calmly and effectively. At about the 19:00 mark Minnesota put the puck in Nashville’s zone and brought on the extra attacker on. With the Wild pressuring the Preds, Pierre-Marc Bouchard slashed Mike Fisher’s stick behind the goal and took the penalty with less than 30 seconds remaining. It looked like that would be enough for the Preds to close out the game, but then they entered the zone and David Legwand buried a shot in the slot for his first goal of the season to make the final score 3-1.
This was easily the best Nashville has looked all season. They took what was working from the two previous games and kept doing it, while tightening up all the loose parts. The second pair looked downright dominant compared to the previous night, the team gave full effort for the bulk of the game instead of half to two-thirds of it, and the addition of Gabriel Bourque brought a nice energy level that had been missing from the lower lines before tonight’s game.
My three stars and some thoughts.
C-Mase’s return to Nashville goal duty ended with a 3-1 victory. (PHOTO: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)
First Star: Chris Mason’s first start as the new Nashville backup goalie was a solid one all the way around. The only goal he gave up came on a deflection form his own player’s glove, and he came up with big saves when he was called upon. Stopping 29 of 30 shots is going to make you a star in my book any game.
Gabby didn’t score, but we got this photo out of his breakaway attempt. (PHOTO: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)
Energy from Gabriel Bourque: When he touches the puck, good things seem to happen. One play that didn’t pay off but easily could later on: his Milwaukee teammate Ryan Ellis connected with Bourque on a bomb pass out of the Nashville zone; Bourque caught it at the Minnesota blue line traveling at near top speed, and only a savvy poke-check from Backstrom kept Bourque from scoring. All this after catching a 7 a.m. flight from Milwaukee to meet the team in St. Paul. Welcome back, Gabby!