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Post-Game Musings: at Minnesota

by Doug Brumley / Nashville Predators
Any and all fears the Nashville Predators had of allowing a five-day All-Star break to slow their snowballing momentum were realized over the course of the first two and a half periods of Tuesday night’s road game against the Minnesota Wild. But by the end of the game, the boys in blue and gold with a knack for comebacks emphatically shook off the rust to rally and down a shellshocked Wild team by a 5-4 score.

Defensive lapses and imprecise passing by Nashville marked a first period that saw the Wild’s leading scorer, Dany Heatley, bank two largely uncontested goals. The teams traded goals in the second period, giving the Predators some life heading into the second intermission at 3-1. However, Wild forward Kyle Brodziak’s goal at the 16-second mark of the third period, combined with Nashville’s dearth of shots on net, set a dim tone for the visitors.

That all changed at 9:21 of the third when Brandon Yip, playing in his third game for Nashville since being acquired on waivers, notched his first goal as a Pred to cut the lead to 4-2. After that goal, an immediate, aggressive follow-up shift from the Preds, and a ten-bell save by Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne on a Matt Cullen break with 4:47 left, the game changed course. The Predators scored three times in a three-minute span—the final two coming from the stick of Mike Fisher—to swoop in and steal two points from a Wild team that had won two straight heading into Tuesday’s game.

Three Musings
At What Point Are These No Longer Surprising?: Tuesday night’s comeback victory conjured memories of Nashville’s late-game heroics from the month of December—namely the two very late goals and overtime winner by Colin Wilson at Columbus on Dec. 8, and the Dec. 22 Martin Erat tally with 8.4 seconds left to topple those same Blue Jackets. For the season, Nashville leads the NHL with 7 comeback wins when down by at least two goals, according to Elias Sports Bureau. That’s one more such comeback than either Ottawa or Philadelphia, who have 6 each.

Yip and 'Chuk: Nashville’s first goal of the night not only gave the Predators a spark of life, but it also extended the point streak of its scorer, Matt Halischuk, to three games. (He has two goals and two assists over that span.) The pairing of rookies Halischuk and Craig Smith with recent waiver claim Brandon Yip paid dividends Tuesday with energetic stints in the offensive zone and scrappy play around the Wild goal. Yip assisted on Halischuk’s goal for his first point as a Predator, then finished off a Halischuk chance that—after video review—confirmed Yip’s first goal (and two-point game) as a member of the Nashville squad.

Unseasonably Warm: With Tuesday’s win over the Wild, the Predators closed out the month of January with an 11-2-0 record. Goaltender Pekka Rinne extended his franchise-best consecutive win streak to 10 games. Mike Fisher extended his goal-scoring streak to three games (5 goals in that span) and his point streak to five games (6 goals, 1 assist). Patric Hornqvist’s goal bumped his point-scoring streak to four games (3 goals, 2 assists), and Craig Smith’s assist gives him points in four straight as well (2 goals, 2 assists).

Three Quotes
Associate coach Peter Horachek (after two periods): “We’re still not doing all the things we were doing before the break. Maybe it’s rust. Maybe it’s the five days without skating. I don’t know what it is. But the bottom line is we are down by two goals and the next goal is key.”

Mike Fisher (on the comeback): “We’ve done it a few times this year and it was almost like we knew what was happening once we got one [goal]. Their fourth one kind of hurt us but we kept going. We stayed calm, just made plays. It seems like we’re unstoppable in the third. That was a lot of fun.”

Mike Fisher on the GWG: “I was just throwing to the net. I was hoping Marty was in front. I think it went maybe through the d and caught [Harding] under the glove. You know what, maybe it got a little bit lucky but you never know when you throw it at the net.”

Three Stars
1 – Matt Halischuk: 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 3 shots in 12:40 of ice time
2 – Mike Fisher: 2 goals in a 2:39 span, including the game-winner
3 – Dany Heatley: 2 goals, 1 assist

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