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Predators blow lead, but edge Wild in overtime

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's not often one allows five goals and still gets the win, especially on the road.

But the Nashville Predators accomplished the feat against the Minnesota Wild, earning a 6-5 overtime victory on Mattias Ekholm's goal with 3:15 remaining at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

Ekholm gained control of the puck behind the net to Niklas Backstrom's right, skated all the way around into the slot and put a wrist shot over Backstrom's blocker. It was Ekholm's first goal this season and second in 96 games.

"[Behind the net] I was just looking for the [defenseman] and then I saw nobody was there," Ekholm said. "So I just tried to spin in front of the net and get a shot off. It wasn't the hardest, but it went in."

The victory was Nashville's (21-8-2) fourth in its past five games and salvaged a two-point night after the Predators blew a two-goal lead in the third period.

Minnesota (16-12-3) has now lost three straight.

"Clearly not good enough," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "You score five goals, for our team, that should be automatic. But you turn a game into a track meet, give a chance, get a chance, give a chance ... that's not our game, so obviously the result is not the right one."

With the game tied after two periods, Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi scored in the third to give Nashville a 5-3 lead. Less than two minutes after Josi's goal, Wild forward Zach Parise scored his second of the game and 13th of the season on a tip-in of a shot by Jason Pominville.

The Wild pulled Backstrom (27 saves) with 1:20 to play and tied the score with the extra attacker and 47.8 seconds remaining in regulation when Thomas Vanek scored his fifth of the season.

"It can't happen. With five goals, you should be able to win a hockey game," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "We're not doing that right now. Bottom line is we have to be better."

After the game, Minnesota had a meeting to try and get a handle on its inconsistent play of late. The Wild have lost four of their past five, are 3-3-2 since the beginning of December and now trail the Predators by nine points for third place in the Central Division standings.

"You can talk and say all the right things but at the end, it's going to be happening on the ice," Koivu said. "We have some good parts of our game, but we can't keep it for 60 minutes and we have to find an answer for that."

The Predators chased starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper, scoring three goals on 14 shots in the opening 20 minutes. It was the fourth time in his past five home starts Kuemper has been pulled.

After Jason Zucker gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead 1:10 into the game, Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok scored his third, deking Kuemper and getting the goaltender to commit. Jarnkrok pulled the puck around Kuemper and slid it into an open net at 4:37.

Parise scored his first of the game two minutes later, crashing the net on a rebound and deflecting the puck into the net off his skate.

Nashville scored the final two goals of the first, one by Matt Cullen when he tipped a centering pass from behind the net by Victor Bartley between Kuemper and the right post at 13:58, and the other on a backhand off a faceoff to Kuemper's right with 1:46 left in the period.

"I thought we were solid," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "Fired a lot of attempts, got a lot of shots on net, scored a lot of goals. They had a couple of re-direct goals, but overall, I thought we did a real good job on the road."

Wild defenseman Marco Scandella was credited with a goal at 7:18 of the second period, scoring off a scramble in front of Pekka Rinne (22 saves). No goal was signaled on the ice, but after a lengthy video review, the Situation Room in Toronto determined Scandella's rebound shot completely crossed the goal line. It was his seventh of the season.

"I'm just reviewing that one now," Laviolette said. "I'm going to need further direction. I'm not sure I understand it."

The Wild played without center Mikael Granlund, who was a late scratch due to illness. Nashville forward James Neal did not play and did not make the trip because of illness.

Rinne allowed five goals in a game for the first time this season, but still earned his 21st victory. Rinne had allowed four goals twice this season prior to Saturday.

"Huge win for us, division game. We pretty much gave them a point, but we deserved those two points," Rinne said. "Didn't like the five goals, but other than that, a huge win for us."

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