It's down to one.
Pekka Rinne stopped all 31 shots he faced and the Nashville Predators defeated the Minnesota Wild by a 3-0 final on Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. The result gives Nashville 40 wins and 91 points, while bringing their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to one.
An afternoon that played out like a playoff game, according to Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette, saw solid play from the home club from start to finish.
"I thought both teams played really hard today," Laviolette said. "It was playoff hockey. It was fast, and it was tight. Any team that didn't play like that for 60 minutes, you probably weren't going to win the game."
"We knew they were a really good team," Filip Forsberg said. "We've played them a couple of times, and we knew it was going to take a 60-minute effort. I'm really proud of everyone for what we did today, that's for sure."
A scoreless first period was turning into a goaltender duel between Pekka Rinne and Alex Stalock, and the two clubs almost went through the first 40 minutes without a tally, until Filip Forsberg and Kevin Fiala broke through.
Video: NSH@MIN: Forsberg deflects Josi's shot past Stalock
At 17:21 of the second stanza, Forsberg tipped in a Roman Josi point shot for his 31st goal of the season, and just 10 seconds later Fiala drove to the net all by himself and tucked the puck past a sprawling Stalock to give Nashville a 2-0 advantage after two periods.
From there, Rinne shut the door down the stretch and P.K. Subban added an empty-netter for his 10th goal of the season and a 3-0 victory over the Central Division rival.
"Any time you have a good game it is nice, especially at the end of the season," Rinne said. "A shutout is a bonus on top of that. Again, I thought it was a great game, and the guys did a really good job in front of me."
Now it's on to St. Louis for the Predators, and just one point on Sunday afternoon against the Blues (or the Kings failing to gain a point against the Coyotes) would clinch a spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third-straight season.
"[Tomorrow] is probably the biggest game of the year so far, and it's going to be fun," Forsberg said. "It's going to be really fun to go in there and try to climb the standings as high as we can."
Video: MIN@NSH: Preds strike twice in 10 seconds vs. Wild
Two in 10:
It was beginning to look as if the Preds might not be able to get anything past Alex Stalock on Saturday afternoon. Ten seconds in the middle frame changed all that.
Goals from Filip Forsberg and Kevin Fiala right after the other gave the bench - and the building - life as Nashville continued their second-period dominance over their opponents, outscoring teams by 33 this season, the highest margin in the NHL.
"Kevin's goal really put some energy on the bench," Laviolette said. "You don't want to chase a game like that, you don't want to be down 1-0 or 2-0. You want to get that first goal and get that lead in a game like this. I think it was really important. I think the guys were happy about that, but for Kevin to knock one in 10 seconds later was huge."
"[They were] two big goals at a good time," Forsberg said. "Fans got their Big Macs, and everyone is happy."
Video: Coach Laviolette talks about his team's win
And Then It Was One:
With a win on Saturday over Minnesota, the Predators brought their magic number to one when it comes to postseason metrics, setting themselves up for a chance to clinch a spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday.
Even with two losses last week, Laviolette is seeing exactly what he wants from his team more often than not as of late - solid defensive play and timely scoring with his team pushing the pace. After winning a potential playoff matchup against the Wild, there's just one more point to snag.
"I think, as a team, you always have to give respect to the other team," Rinne said. "Minnesota is a really good hockey team. I think we always play pretty entertaining games against them. It was a pretty big matchup, considering if [we] face them in the first round. These games matter."
"We're playing the right way," Laviolette said. "Hopefully, the results lead to something that you're happier with like today. It's a good way to be playing right now."
Video: Rinne's 31-save shutout leads Preds past Wild, 3-0
James Neal was scratched from Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. Craig Smith returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing Thursday's outing with an upper-body injury.
Colin Wilson appeared in his 500th NHL game on Saturday, all of them coming as a member of the Predators.
Nashville hit the 40-win plateau for the 10th time in franchise history, all of them coming within the last 12 seasons.
The Predators are right back at it tomorrow afternoon in St. Louis, a 3 p.m. CT meeting with the Blues from Scottrade Center to begin the final week of the regular season. Nashville then returns to Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders for their final home game of the regular season.