Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators:
Under the bright lights in Music City and in front of a nationally televised audience, the Minnesota Wild played a rousing number against the team with the National Hockey League’s best record.
In the town where everyone wants to be a star, it was the team’s fourth line that provided the hits for the Wild tonight. Kyle Brodziak, Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine combined for two goals, three assists and a plus-6 rating (more on them in a bit).
Nino Niederreiter netted the game winner and iced it with Preds goaltender pulled for an extra skater. The forward eclipses the 20-goal mark (21 on the year) for the first time in his career.
Between the pipes, Devan Dubnyk outdueled one of the League’s best in Rinne. The 28-year-old skated in Nashville last season for all of two games and then was moved to Montreal. It was his 19th consecutive start since coming to Minnesota and 14th win with the club.
The Wild’s newest member, Sean Bergenheim, made his debut in the road whites. Throwing him right into the ring of fire, Bergenheim skated on the wing with Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek.
Before the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo praised him for his two-way play, which we saw a sample of today when he blocked shot in the first period Cody Franson. He showed off a little skill, as well. In the second period, he raced down the right wing and used an outside-in move on Mattias Ekholm to generate a grade-A attempt.
The 31-year-old was able to bring energy to the lineup despite having an unexpectedly long day. He arrived in Nashville this morning after his flight was cancelled last night and joined the team for morning skate. Some familiar faces in the Wild room greeted the Helsinki, Finland native. He played with and against Koivu as a youngster in their nation, has skated with Mikael Granlund in the summer and knows goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
Haula played in his 100th career game and it was a hit, celebrating the milestone with his sixth goal of the season and adding an assist. Typically a center, he skated on the wing with Brodziak and Fontaine. On the game’s opening goal, Haula found space in the high slot and Fontaine located him for a one-timer. It was in his wheelhouse and the 23-year-old laid into it, beating Rinne on the blocker side with a bomb.
The newly united fourth line brought a strong game tonight, generating chances and drawing penalties thanks to a strong forecheck. It factored in on another goal in the second period.
Still able to take faceoffs, Haula was deployed inside the circles on the left side. It’s easier for centers to pull the puck to their backhand, so the lefty switched positions with Brodziak. On the Wild’s second goal, we saw the switch work to perfections, as the lefty cleanly won the puck back to Brodziak for a short-side blast following a Haula win.
If country artists can croon about jolted exes better than just about anyone and people in Nashville can hold a grudge when they feel they’ve been wronged. The fans inside Bridgestone Arena continue to hate on defenseman Ryan Suter. Since signing in Minnesota, every time he touches the puck, the former Preds blueliner gets the catcalls inside Bridgestone Arena. In the first period, we might’ve heard the longest boo in any of his returns.
The 30-year-old controlled the puck in side the D-zone and was looking up ice for a forward. When he didn’t see an opening, he whirled deep and skated behind the net. Minnesota went for a line change, so Suter calmly held onto the puck. In all, the play took about 20 seconds of continuous booing. However, here in Nashville everyone wants to be, or is, a singer, so they had some mighty pipes to be able to yell for the entirety of the play.
The Wild had a large contingent in Nashville tonight as both the Wild hosted a fan and corporate sponsors trip. After the club’s second goal, the fans had a boisterous “Let’s go Wild!” chant. They even got a “Let’s go Suter!” rolling in the third. They must’ve warmed up their vocal chords last night with all the live music to see. The Minnesota supporters will enjoy a few days on Broadway and get to see the sights and especially the sounds of the Music City after taking in tonight’s action.
The rich musical history is all over around the arena. The Country Music Hall of Fame is downtown as is one of the most hallowed stages in all of music, the Ryman Auditorium (yes, I totally geeked-out yesterday at Jack White’s Third Man Records and the Johnny Cash Museum).
Of course, the Predators game operations were full of quality music. During the Wild introductions, the arena played Goyte’s “Somebody that I Used to Know,” a slight dig at Suter. The organ player, Krazy Kyle, pounded out an ode to Cash on his birthday (the same day as Granlund) with his first song of the night, “Ring of Fire.” During the intermissions, there was a live band above the Zamboni tunnel. How sweet would it be to see a playoff matchup between the Wild and Predators? I’m sure there would be a fair number of Forest Green and Iron Range Red spattered along Broadway.