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Predators build early lead, then hold off Wild

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal scored goals, and the Nashville Predators held off the Minnesota Wild 3-2 at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

Neal's goal 8:06 into the second period gave the Predators a three-goal lead, and Nashville (16-11-6) survived goals by Minnesota's Zach Parise and Jason Zucker to end a three-game losing streak.

"It's a big win," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "I mean, that's a big game. We're in a situation where wins have been hard to come by. I said this yesterday that all teams go through it. We're susceptible to it as well. I really like the way we hung our jerseys together tonight as a group. We all went out and played hard, and we got a big win."

Pekka Rinne wasn't tested often but made 20 saves.

"[Rinne] was terrific in net. You need your goaltender to be terrific, and he was," Laviolette said. "It was a division game against a real good hockey team that is playing well. We needed to get that done tonight. We did, and now we've got to wake up tomorrow and start thinking about the next one before the break."

Devan Dubnyk made 36 saves for the Wild (17-8-6), whose point streak ended at nine games.

"Tough start, that's for sure," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "The first period was not us, and they were ready. They were desperate and reeling a little bit here so we knew that they would be ready to go, and then we had a push at the end and we started to get some momentum off that. It was a little too late."

The Predators had wanted more net-front presence from their forwards, and they got it in the first period.

"It was great," Forsberg said. "We had been talking about it a lot and really working on it in practice. Just trying to get shots through from the point, and obviously with two tip-ins there, that's something where I'm glad that paid off."

Forsberg gave the Predators a 1-0 lead 46 seconds after the opening faceoff when he tipped defenseman Shea Weber's point shot past Dubnyk for his seventh goal of the season. Ribeiro made it 2-0 at 14:11 during a 5-on-3 power play. Weber took a slap shot from the point that Ribeiro deflected past Dubnyk for his fourth goal.

"It hit me, it's not like I tipped it," Ribeiro said. "I was just there and it hit me and went in, but our traffic, you need that. It's hard. Nowadays, goalies are so good that if they see the puck, they'll stop the puck. You've got to have bodies in front. If you're there, then they have [defenseman] there. If you have a second guy there, then there are three or four guys in front of the net. It's hard for the goalie. We need to do more of that. Our [defense] is one of the best in the League. I'm sure they can find lanes."

Neal gave the Predators a 3-0 lead when he beat Dubnyk with a wrist shot from the left circle. Neal created a turnover in the Minnesota zone and fired a shot that beat Dubnyk under the pad for his 13th goal.

"We held on to the puck a lot more," Weber said. "I thought in the second period we made a couple of bad decisions and turnovers that led to some chances by them, but I thought for the most part we did a better job of controlling the puck. That's going to lead to more zone time, and that's going to lead to them not being able to possess the puck and get offense opportunities as well."

Parise got the Wild on the board 43 seconds after Neal's goal, deflecting defenseman Marco Scandella's point shot past Rinne for his 11th goal. Zucker made it 3-2 at 8:35 of the third period, beating Rinne with a wrist shot from the slot. He stole the puck from Neal in the offensive zone and took a shot that beat Rinne before he had time to react. It was Zucker's eighth goal.

The Wild play at the Dallas Stars on Monday, the same night that the Predators host the Montreal Canadiens, who lost 6-2 at Dallas on Saturday.

"We're not going to get ahead of ourselves here," Weber said. "We're not world-beaters by any means. It's a good, solid game for us, but we've got a tough opponent in Montreal who's obviously fighting for a lot right now because they've been struggling a little bit too. Finish off strong here before the break, and then we'll figure it out when we come back."

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