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  • Recap: Wild overcomes absences, beat Predators 5-4 in overtime


    If there is one team that the Minnesota Wild have just not figured out this season, it would be the Nashville Predators. All three previous matchups have resulted in the Wild not being able to score more than two goals and Nashville just having their way with them, earning easy wins.

    Well, tonight was a different story and with a different lineup for the visiting team. Without the punishing presence of players like Matt Dumba, Marcus Foligno, and Jordan Greenway, that make the Wild’s north-south system work so damn well, and the offensive skill of Mats Zuccarello, this team walked into Bridgestone Arena with a chip on the shoulder and many call-ups trying to earn their way into the good graces of the coaching staff.

    It worked.

    And even with captain Jared Spurgeon having to leave the game after playing just five and a half minutes. The Wild’s planned worked and they simply dominated in a 5-4 win over the Predators. This is one of those games where the score line doesn’t really fit the game.

    After the first few opening minutes resulted in some stalemate in the form of butting heads, the Wild kept on ramping up the shots and scoring chances. Eventually, they were able to get on the power play and Nick Bjugstad — most likely on the first power play shift of the season — managed to touch the puck right before Nashville scored on itself and he gets to net the opening goal.

    Unfortunately, with the brief moment of thought that finally Minnesota would get a win against the Predators this season, captain Jared Spurgeon went down with an injury. He did not return for the remainder of the game.

    Considering that there is some word around the team that they could be resting players for the rest of the regular season, maybe holding Spurgeon out after getting banged up is just for precaution. One can hope. At the time of writing, nothing has been said by the team or a staff member.

    Without Spurgeon on the ice, things got a little bit more dicey in transition and even in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Nashville was able to tie the game in the dying seconds of the first period with Middleton a little lost without the stability of Spurgeon out there with him and a mess in front of the net turns into a Predators goal — that last statement seemed to be a common theme throughout this one.

    Middleton gaveth after he tooketh. To earn the Wild a 2-1 lead, the defender just ended up getting pushed into the opposing netminder and Eriksson Ek was able to score the 24th goal of his season.

    But not even five minutes later, there is yet another netfront mess that ends up with the puck behind Fleury and we have four goals and a tie game.

    As you can see plainly there on the score bug of the highlight, the Wild were absolutely demolishing the Predators in shots on goal and it lasted for the entire game. They were punishing them with pucks from anywhere in the zone.

    But, just because, that did not matter and the Predators scored another dang goal from getting physical in the crease and popping the puck into the back of the net.

    Luckily, Eriksson Ek felt like scoring a wonderful goal on the powerplay to tie it up at three in the final minutes of the second period.

    A wonderful full-team effort — everything from Kirill Kaprizov jumping on the puck to keep it inside the zone, to Kevin Fiala patiently waiting and seeking our Eriksson Ek coming in hot to roof it over Rittich. A great goal scored by the top unit and the Wild’s top forwards.

    And speaking of top forwards, the Wild wanted to make sure their confidence soared heading into the second intermission.

    Kevin Fiala scored a potential Goal of the Year candidate to give the Wild the lead.

    Just absolutely incredible. With this goal, Fiala earned his 84th point of the season, which breaks the previously-broken record of Marian Gaborik earning the most points in a single season by a Minnesota player. Kaprizov nabbed it just weeks ago, and now his star winger teammate gets to do the same. A brilliant season for Fiala so far and it is perfectly capsuled inside that brief highlight of a goal.

    Our happiness was temporary, unfortunately. It would have been great to finish the game with that goal from Fiala and clap our hands together as we await the playoffs. But, the Predators — hungry for the playoffs themselves and needing any point they can get their grubby hands on — ended up tying the game from a Dante Fabbro shot.

    Truly the first Nashville goal that looked like a normal hockey goal, so of course it is the one that we hate the most and forces overtime and nullifies Fiala’s wondergoal.

    In overtime, it was a complete stalemate. The Predators had some chances, Goligoski ended up saving a goal off of Fleury’s goal line after the puck trickled through, but other than that, it was just skating in circles and the Wild not even getting any shots on net.

    That was until Dmitry Kulikov decided to get the first Wild shot in the extra period, and put it in the back of the net to win it.

    With literally one second left on the clock, Kulikov managed to score the game-winner — the first of his career — after Eriksson Ek pried the puck away from the Nashville player, turned around swiftly, and put it right in the path for Kulikov. A wonderful finish to a back-and-forth game.

    If anything, the Wild proved even further that they can take on anyone and any team at 5-on-5, no matter the personnel. Nashville relied upon awkward defending from Minnesota and just flukey goals to even earn a single point out of this. After losing all their prior matchups, it feels good to see the Wild earn an entertaining win in this one.

    Eriksson Ek led the Wild in points tonight with two goals and an assist; Kaprizov earned two assists; Fiala got a goal and an assist; and others like Connor Dewar, Joseph Cramarossa, Bjugstad and Boldy, were able to nab a point each.

    Fleury was a little shaky in this one and it was reflected in his numbers, as he was on record for making 21 saves on 25 shots. Not the most confidence-instilling performance.

    Next up, they’re hosting the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. We’ll probably see some key players rested for that.

    Burning Questions

    Can the Wild outplay/outwit/out-defend Nashville’s Norris-contending captain Roman Josi?

    Josi was held to just one single, tiny assist tonight and was certainly out-played. But the Wild really out-played every single Predator at even-strength. No Nashville player had an on-ice shot attempt share over 50 percent; so this team truly was just coasting on special teams performance and some weird ass goals. Josi was honestly not very noticeable despite playing almost 28 minutes.

    Does Kevin Fiala stay scorching hot?

    God, yes he does. It might have been more quality than quantity tonight, but he is still killing the game. Two points tonight and an incredible goal to potentially cap off his historic regular season. He is such a special player and there cannot be said enough about what he brings to the table and how his performances have earned the Wild so many wins lately.



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