Jason Zucker assisted on the tiebreaking goal and later added his 30th goal of the season Saturday night as the Minnesota Wild dumped the Nashville Predators 4-1 at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.
It was Minnesota’s third home win this season against Nashville, which despite losing its second straight game is tied for the overall points lead in the NHL with Tampa Bay at 106 points. The Wild have 92 points for the season, two ahead of Colorado for third place in the Central Division.
Zucker’s goal at 1:29 of the third period marked the first 30-goal season of his career. He got the puck at the right post after Erik Staal’s pass and was stopped on the initial shot, but jammed the rebound by Pekka Rinne.
The first three Minnesota goals followed a similar script. The team got the puck behind the defense, drove to the net and eventually derived the reward of a red light off a rebound as the Predators were unable to protect Rinne from net-front traffic.
The tiebreaking marker by Nino Niederreiter at 13:45 of the second period symbolized the night. Ryan Murphy tried a point shot that Rinne stopped. Zucker claimed the puck in the slot and tried a shot that Rinne denied, but Niederreiter was in position to gather the rebound and flick it into the net for his 18th of the season.
Joel Eriksson Ek tallied the Wild’s first goal at 2:50 of the second period, his fifth of the season. Eriksson Ek, who scored in their last game on Monday night, drove the net and picked up the puck in the slot. He chipped the puck past Rinne for the equalizer.
Ryan Johansen notched Nashville’s only goal at 8:37 of the first period, his 13th of the season. Devan Dubnyk made the first save on Johansen’s blast from the left circle, but the rebound came right back to Johansen and he wired a wrister past the prone goalie.
Dubnyk made 19 saves. Rinne, who lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time since December, stopped 26 shots.
Zach Parise capped the scoring with his 10th goal, an empty-netter, at 18:19 of the third period.
—Field Level Media