NASHVILLE – Having already clinched a berth, Predators coach Barry Trotz has said in recent days that his top priority is to rest No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs, not to go all out for the highest possible seeding.
By giving back-up Anders Lindback a rare home start on Tuesday, Trotz killed two birds with one stone. Lindback stopped all three Minnesota Wild shooters in his first career shootout and Alexander Radulov scored on a wrist shot in the shootout as the Preds won 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena to jump into sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference.
Making his only his 15th appearance of the season and his first home start since December, Lindback made 25 saves to earn his fourth victory. Trotz pointed out that Lindback, 23, who still has rookie status despite playing in 22 games last season, has only allowed one goal apiece in each of his last two starts, both wins.
With the win, Nashville jumped back into fourth in the Western Conference with 100 points, one more than fifth-place Detroit and two more than sixth-place Chicago. The Preds and Blackhawks have two games remaining while the Red Wings control their own destiny with three games to play.
"Yeah, of course, it's always nice to play and I want to win every game I play so it's nice to help out," Lindback said. "I think the guys did a great job defensively."
It is the fourth time in franchise history – all during the last seven seasons – that Nashville has reached the 100-point plateau. Interestingly, Trotz had little to say on Saturday following an individual accomplishment – his 500th career win, all with Nashville – preferring to deflect credit to general manager David Poile; however, on Tuesday he waxed nostalgic about the 100-point milestone, a team accomplishment. He was asked if it was a significant number.
"Yeah, it is," he said. "A hundred points -- you'd have to go in the archives, but 100 points is a pretty good standard. It's probably a little different now with three-point games, but still 100 points is 100 points, especially with the parity in the League and what have you. There's some great franchises that haven't reached 100 points in umpteen years, and we've done it four times.
"We haven't won anything. We take a lot of pride in the regular season and one hundred points is pretty significant to me. We're a little bit better than last year and we have a real young team this year, so I think the future is really exceptionally bright because we have a very young group of players and the core is very young and I just think that our future is as bright as any organization in the NHL."
To get to the tiebreaker, Nashville had to survive some late drama. With 11.7 seconds left in regulation – seconds after the Preds' iced the puck -- Andrei Kostitsyn was called for tripping in his own zone. Nashville successfully killed the penalty to get to the shootout, including 1:49 of 4-on-3 play in overtime. Nashville killed all four of Minnesota's power plays on Tuesday, one game after allowing two power-play goals in a 5-4 loss to Chicago.
"You never want to go down in overtime but that was a huge kill," said center Nick Spaling, one of the penalty-killers in overtime who also assisted on Nashville's only goal during the first 65 minutes. "Great job by Lindy coming in. He was our best killer for us, I think, tonight."
Radulov scored the only goal in the tiebreaker on a wrist shot in the second round.
"The great thing about Rad is that when the game's on the line, Rad wants the puck and that's what good players do and he's a good player," Trotz said.
Lindback stopped Mikko Koivu with a pad save in the second round and Devin Setoguchi in the third after Erik Christensen, one of the League's top shootout performers who was 5-for-7 with the Wild entering Tuesday, lost the puck off his stick in the first round. Lindback said it hit some bad ice and jumped off his stick. In the first round, Nashville's Martin Erat was stopped by Niklas Backstrom, who made 23 saves in regulation and OT.
Lindback said he had some nerves about his first shootout, but was glad to finally get one over with. Trotz bucked the conventional wisdom, consulting goalie coach Mitch Korn, about what to do and allowed Minnesota to shoot first in the segment. Trotz said he does it "'cause I got good goalies."
"We've talked about it many times with our group, first or last?" Trotz said. "Mitch Korn who studies, we ask him to look at the shootouts and the goaltenders and who we should shoot and stuff. He said it's sort of like baseball. You want to have the last at-bat sometimes. We've opted that way. We've had decent success with it.
"I usually ask Pekka and he says, ‘Bring it on.' I asked Mitch and he said, ‘Yep. Bring it on. Lindy wants the same.'"
Trotz said that Rinne, the League's leader with 42 wins, was ill on Tuesday. As a result, Chet Pickard was recalled from Cincinnati of the ECHL and backed up Lindback. Trotz said Rinne would be evaluated in the morning by the trainers to gauge his energy level as to whether he would practice on Wednesday.
Minnesota tied the game with 2:07 left in the second period on a play that began on a 2-on-1 by the Wild. Minnesota failed to get a shot off on the play, but kept the puck in the Preds' zone. The Wild worked the puck from behind the net back out to the point and Dany Heatley beautifully deflected Nate Prosser's shot for his team-best 23rd goal.
The Preds broke the ice with 7:29 left in the second period, as Spaling stripped Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner of the puck, creating a virtual 2-on-0 down low. Spaling passed across to Gabriel Bourque, who lifted a shot over Backstrom for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Bourque's seventh in his 41st game.
The Wild had won three straight, all in overtime or a shootout. Nashville has been somewhat inconsistent – 4-5-1 in their last 10 entering Tuesday -- as Trotz has experimented with the lineup with a number of healthy extra forwards.
With 15:53 left in the first period, Wild center Kyle Brodziak accidentally was hit in the face by the skate of his teammate Darroll Powe. Brodziak returned wearing a visor, taking a shift that began with 19 seconds left in the first period.
Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said Brodziak required stitches, motioning to the left side of his face near his nose.
"It was scary," Yeo said. "I think it shows you how much he's respected by our whole team because as soon it happened there was a lot of concern. Mikko was yelling over at their bench to ‘Get the doctor, get the doctor' and the play's going on, but that's the respect he has from his teammates. Everyone was very concerned."
1 - 0 NSH