Granlund’s hat trick leads Wild past Predators
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A slow start by Nashville combined with an inspiring effort out of the gate by Minnesota lifted the Wild over the Predators in the first game of a back-to-back, home-and-home series between the two clubs.
Mikael Granlund registered his second career hat trick and Devan Dubnyk made 41 saves in his first start since Nov. 14 to lead Minnesota to a 4-2 win over Nashville on Friday night.
Matt Dumba’s second-period goal stood up as the game-winner and the Wild defenseman added an assist as Minnesota won its second straight coming out of the Christmas break.
“When you enter a game mentally and physically you got to be ready for the wars and the battles and we were slow to get out of a hole tonight,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.
P.K. Subban and Kyle Turris scored for the Predators (22-10-5) but goaltender Pekka Rinne was Nashville’s best player, making 34 saves to play his part in a tremendous goaltending battle in a game with a combined 81 shots on goal.
“He’s done it again and again all year playing phenomenally,” Nashville center Colton Sissons said. “Without him in that first period it would have been 4 or 5-0 easily. He does that every time he suits up. We got to take a page out of Pekka’s book.”
Granlund scored twice in the first period as Minnesota outshot Nashville 18-9 and watched his initial hat-trick bid beat Rinne, but clang off the right post, 5:54 into the third. He later capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 50.3 seconds remaining.
“I think it was the best start of the year for us,” Granlund said. “It makes it easier the whole game when you have a start like that and put the pressure on early.”
Granlund now has 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in the past 11 games.
“It was like a yo-yo on his stick tonight,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said of Granlund. “When he gets like that, he’s as good as there is. I hope he can continue it now.”
Dubnyk, who returned after missing seven games with a lower-body injury, made 34 of his 41 saves over the final two periods, including Craig Smith’s one-timer in the slot in first minute of third to preserve Minnesota’s 3-1 lead.
But Dubnyk slashed Viktor Arvidsson seconds later and Kyle Turris made it a one-goal game on the ensuing power play with a slapper from the right faceoff dot at 2:52 for his eighth of the season.
“I was excited to play and there were a little bit of nerves, but not really,” Dubnyk said. “I was happy where I was mentally.”
Leading 2-1 after one period, Minnesota (20-15-3) nearly doubled its lead in the opening minute of the second period.
After Rinne stopped Coyle’s close-range shot the puck squirted out to Dumba who fired it past Rinne and teammate Eric Staal in 47 seconds into the period. The goal was reversed when Nashville successfully challenged charging Staal with goaltender interference.
After the Wild’s quick start, however, the Predators, outshot 18-9 in the first period, drew even with Minnesota at 20-20 by the time the period was six minutes old. But Dubnyk and Rinne matched each other nearly save-for save past the game’s halfway mark before Dumba netted one that counted.
Dumba received the puck at the right point, evaded Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki with a move to his left and fired a shot through traffic beating Rinne at 13:14.
Minnesota took a 1-0 lead on Granlund’s first goal 7:34 into the contest.
On that goal, Dumba spun away from a defender before sending a pass to Granlund, whose one-timer beat Rinne just seconds after Turris swept the puck out of the crease behind Rinne to save a goal.
The Predators tied it less than three minutes later when Alexei Emelin’s slapshot from left point caromed off the end wall all the way to Subban, who wristed a shot from the top of the right circle that trickled through Dubnyk at the 10:16 mark.
The tie was short-lived as Granlund picked up his second of the game and 10th of the season 53 seconds later. Granlund crossed the Nashville line and worked a give-and-go with Jared Spurgeon before going top shelf on Rinne 21 seconds into the power play for his third goal in two games.
“Obviously I want the first goal back but the guys got me one back right away, so I got to start over,” Dubnyk said.
Slow starts are becoming a recent trend for the Predators who have been outshot 103-52 in their past seven first periods.
“We worked our butts off the last 40 minutes of play and it was kind of a waste because we weren’t ready to start the game,” Nashville center Ryan Johansen said.
NOTES: Nashville G Pekka Rinne allowed more than one goal on the road for the first time since Nov. 16, the Predators last visit to Minnesota. ... Wild RW Nino Niederreiter skated on Friday, although not with the team. Niederreiter has missed three games since sustaining a lower-body injury last week at Florida and is not expected to play against in Saturday’s re-match. ... The Predators lost the first game of a back-to-back for the first time this season (4-1-0). ... Minnesota’s 18 first-period shots were a season high.