The Nashville Predators managed two power-play goals against the best penalty killing team in the league Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center, but a motivated Minnesota Wild team jumped ahead early and answered the Predators' comeback attempts to hand Nashville its third regulation loss of the season. Paul Kariya and Marek Zidlicky scored for the Predators in the 4-2 defeat, which drops Nashville's record to 12-3-3 on the season.
"I didn't think we played poorly tonight," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "We just didn't capitalize on our chances. We had some good offensive chances. [Minnesota goaltender Manny] Fernandez was really good."
The Wild, who had lost three in a row entering Saturday's game, built their early lead with two deflection goals off of shots from the point. The first, a wrister by defenseman Kurtis Foster, was inadvertently deflected downward by Nashville center Yanic Perreault and through the legs of goaltender Tomas Vokoun 1:55 into the game. The second, originating from the stick of defenseman Filip Kuba, was redirected into the net by Wild forward Stephane Veilleux at 10:44 of the first period.
Nashville cut the deficit in half less than four minutes later. With the Predators on their second power play, defenseman Kimmo Timonen sent the puck to fellow blueliner Zidlicky. Zidlicky, skating in his 100th NHL game, momentarily bobbled the receipt at the left face-off dot before recovering. As the penalty killers focused on Zidlicky, he spotted Kariya all alone in the lower portion of the right circle. Kariya one-timed Zidlicky's pass into the net before Fernandez could complete his lateral move to cover the goal mouth.
Minnesota pushed the margin to two once again, getting a second goal from Foster at 13:04 of the middle period. This time his point shot made it through untouched, beating Vokoun over his right shoulder. Minutes later Nashville's Scottie Upshall was stopped by Fernandez on a great scoring chance created by a tic-tac-toe passing play between Greg Johnson, Adam Hall and Upshall. Fernandez also came up big midway through the third when Kariya took a pass at his offensive blueline and made his way around Minnesota's defenders for a breakaway opportunity.
The Wild's 3-1 lead stood until 12:40 of the third period. As a brief five-on-three man advantage for Nashville expired, Zidlicky fired a sharp-angle shot from just above the goal line that sailed over Fernandez and under the crossbar. The power play goal drew the Predators within one, but the momentum derived from the goal was quelled three minutes later when Minnesota got a power play goal of its own. Again a point shot kicked off the play. Vokoun stopped the initial chance but forward Brian Rolston was able to dig the puck out of a scramble in front and put it past Vokoun for the 4-2 lead.
"We had a few unfortunate tip-ins [go against us] in the first period and they got up 2-0," Trotz said. "We came back but the third goal, Foster's goal, really hurt. We were in it until they got the fourth goal on the power play."
Minnesota's penalty kill, which entered the game ranked first overall in the NHL, allowed two goals on seven Nashville power plays. The Wild's power play, ranked first in the league at home, connected on one of five opportunities. The Predators outshot an opponent for only the fourth time this season--registering 32 shots to Minnesota's 28--and lost for the first time when doing so. Fernandez improves his record to 6-3-1 after stopping all but two of the pucks Nashville fired at him. Vokoun, who allowed four goals on 28 shots, drops to 11-3-2.
Next, the Predators head to Detroit to face their fierce Central Division rival, the Red Wings, on Monday night. That game, which begins at 6:30 p.m. CST, will be televised on FSN South and broadcast on WGFX-104.5 FM The Zone.
Notes: Kimmo Timonen's assist on Paul Kariya's goal extends his point streak to five games. He has three goals and six assists in that span... Paul Kariya's goal extends his point streak to four games. He has two goals and five assists in that span... With his goal and assist Saturday night, Marek Zidlicky notched his third multi-point game of the season. Seven of his nine points have come on the power play... Nashville has scored at least two power-play goals in each of its last four games... The Predators, who have made face-offs a strong suit of their game this season, struggled on draws against Minnesota. Nashville won just 38 percent of the face-offs Saturday... The game vs. the Wild marked the first time this season that Nashville has lost in regulation when its opponent scores the first goal (8-1-1)... In the all-time series between Nashville and Minnesota, each team is unbeaten at home over the last 11 contests... Attendance at the Xcel Energy Center was 18,568.