Zucker helps Wild complete big comeback vs. Predators
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild’s struggling power play righted itself at the perfect time on Thursday. The Wild scored two man-advantage goals as part of a crazy comeback, rallying from two goals down with four goals in the final seven minutes in a 6-4 win over the Nashville Predators.
Jason Zucker’s backhand shot with 2:55 remaining in the third period gave the Wild their first lead and extended their winning streak to four games. The Wild trailed 4-2 with seven minutes to play before Ryan Suter and Eric Staal scored to tie the game, and Zucker eventually won it. Zucker has eight goals in his last five games.
Jared Spurgeon added an empty net goal from the far blue line with 67 seconds left. Matt Dumba and Nino Niederreiter also scored for Minnesota (9-7-2) which got 26 saves from Devan Dubnyk.
“You can’t be satisfied with playing 30 minutes a game because it’s going to come up and bite you as the season goes along, but I mean they can’t all be Picassos either,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It shows great character to be able to come back and all of a sudden do that, it makes people believe, or the team I think believe that they’re capable of doing it.”
Ryan Johansen scored his first goal of the season and had two assists for Nashville (10-6-2) which saw its five-game winning streak snapped. Viktor Arvidsson, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm also scored and Pekka Rinne had 30 saves for the Predators, who had not lost since Nov. 1.
The career-best three-game shutout streak by Dubnyk did not survive the first minute, as Johansen banked a low shot off the inside of the goalie’s right leg and into the net 49 seconds into the game. It ended his run of not allowing a goal at 195 minutes, 54 seconds.
“Obviously it was a point of emphasis to get to him and get as many shots as we could and we set the tone really well tonight,” Johansen said. “Had a great start and we just need to stick to our game plan like we did in the first and the third got away from it.”
The Wild killed off a trio of first period power plays only to fall behind 2-0 early in the second when Josi shot through a crowd in front of Dubnyk and found a gap between the goalie’s stick and the left post.
Midway through the game Minnesota’s struggling power play failed to score, and dug a deeper hole when Ekholm scored short-handed for a 3-0 Nashville lead.
“We had good looks and good chances, we didn’t put them in,” said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. “The first period I have no problem with. Once it got to be 3-0 we just stopped. After the second period we were still leading but I didn’t like it.”
The Wild finally scored with 3:44 to play in the second via a rocket of a slap shot from the blue line by Dumba. Minnesota appeared to score again 42 seconds later when Niederreiter’s third whack at a loose puck in front of Rinne ended up in the net but replay showed the puck went in off Niederreiter’s glove and the call on the ice was overturned.
“That was arguably one of the worst starts we had this year. We didn’t play our game, we weren’t doing the right things, we were being a little too fancy turning pucks over and they capitalized on a lot of them,” said Zucker. “We had to change our game back to where we wanted it to be and our game. When we started doing that Dumba scored that goal that was huge for us, gave us a little more life on the bench and we started rolling from there.”
In the final minute of the second, Niederreiter’s power play shot beat Rinne on the stick side, and counted, making the score 3-2 after two periods.
An ugly turnover by Niederreiter early in the third led to Arvidsson’s goal, which re-established a two-goal lead for Nashville. But Spurgeon’s rising slap shot deflected off Suter with just under seven minutes to play making it 4-3 and Staal tied it with a power play goal less than two minutes later.
NOTES: The Predators recalled G Anders Lindback from their Milwaukee AHL team and sent Juuse Saros down to Milwaukee. Lindback is the AHL’s leading goalie with eight wins this season. He was on the Predators bench backing up Pekka Rinne on Thursday night. ... The Wild nearly had their second friendly fire injury of the season in the second period, when a slap shot by D Ryan Suter hit C Eric Staal in the back of the leg. Staal crumpled to the ice but was able to stay in the game. The Wild lost F Charlie Coyle to a broken leg earlier in the season when he was hit by a slap shot from D Jared Spurgeon. ... Referee Justin St. Pierre worked the game with a large white bandage covering most of his right hand.