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Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 5, Predators 2

Zucker-Koivu-Granlund line powers Minnesota to win over Nashville

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Recap: NSH 2, MIN 5

Dubnyk, Wild edge Predators, 5-2

The Wild picked up 37 saves from Devan Dubnyk and two goals from Jason Zucker to propel them to a 5-2 win against the Predators

  • 03:28 •

Wild.com's Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Saturday night:

1. Some guys have a go-to shootout move (cc: Mikko Koivu forehand-backhand ©). Do Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker now have a patented 2-on-1 play?

The two combined for a flashy goal late in the second period as Granlund charged down the right wing with the puck, pulled it around a sliding Nashville defenseman, then feathered a pretty backhand pass to a crashing Zucker on top of the crease for the slam duck tap-in past Pekka Rinne.

Video: NSH@MIN: Zucker slides home Granlund's nifty dish 

Awesome play. But haven't we seen this before?

Roll that beautiful bean footage:  

Video: MIN@CGY: Zucker buries Granlund's slick feed

"I'll take those passes from [Granlund] all day. I think he slid it through Rinne's stick, through the triangle of Rinne. So, I mean, that's a pretty ridiculous pass," Zucker said. "I just put my stick on the ice and I know he'll probably hit it."

After scoring two points in Vancouver on Feb. 4, which got him to 99 career points, Zucker was stuck one shy of the century mark for six straight games until Saturday's (first) goal.

2. Speaking of milestones, Mikko Koivu, the third leg of that line, scored his 600th career point 35 seconds into the third period.

Video: NSH@MIN: Koivu scores after bounce off the boards

Koivu, who assisted on Granlund's first-period goal for point 599, now has 178 goals and 422 assists in 820 games after being selected sixth overall by the Wild in the 2001 NHL Draft. 

Video: NSH@MIN: Granlund pots rebound for power-play goal

"When you know that you've had [600 points], it's a nice thing," Koivu said. "But at the end, I think it's more important for myself to be able to be with the same team and being around this city and these fans; that part is more important for myself than anything else."

Players often get rewarded for going hard to the net, and Koivu's goal was one of those times, after a shot from the left half wall by Ryan Suter took a fortuitous bounce off the end boards and ended up right on the tape of Koivu on top of the blue paint. 

Rinne, who expected to puck to ring around the boards to the corner, was not prepared for the captain to pop one over his countryman's head.

"That's pretty good," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I was trying to ask if that was more than his brother [Saku]. He said he didn't know. I bet he's lying."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Postgame vs. Nashville

For the record, Saku, who Boudreau tutored while in Anaheim, remains 232 points ahead of his younger brother, but Mikko still has time to catch him. 

All three members of the Zucker-Koivu-Granlund line scored at least one goal and one assist on Saturday. Zucker added a second goal with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, blocking a shot to spark a breakaway that he pushed through Rinne's five hole to provide Minnesota with a critical insurance tally against Nashville (27-22-8).

Tweet from @mnwildPR: Since becoming a #mnwild line on Nov. 25, Zucker-Koivu-Granlund have totaled 110 points (43-67=110) and a plus-84 rating. #NHL

The goal was typical of the line, working hard in the defensive zone to create chances on the other end.

"[Zucker] paid the price defensively to earn that chance and took it from there," Koivu said. "If he doesn't block that shot and be in the lane and defend well, he's never going to get that breakaway. So I think as a line, I think we're trying yo do that each and every night. We take a lot of pride in that, that we need to be good defensively to create offense. It's been working."

3. Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk was on point, making 37 saves for his NHL-leading 32nd win.

Perhaps his best moment of the night came on a short-handed breakaway by Ryan Ellis in the first period. Dubnyk went for the pokecheck but missed. It didn't deter him, however, as Dubnyk went with the old school two-pad stack to deny Ellis of what would have been the tying goal.

Video: NSH@MIN: Dubnyk stacks the pads to deny Ellis' break

"Throw [a poke check] at 'em once in awhile," Dubnyk said. "Sometimes, I just decide at the last moment. Play dead and see what happens. It worked that time."

It ended up being large. 

Dubnyk held up through 40 minutes, making 21 saves to keep the Predators off the board long enough for the Wild to build a three-goal lead. They ended up needing every one, but the Wild held on for its 39th victory of the season. Combined with Chicago's 3-1 loss to Edmonton earlier in the evening, Minnesota (39-13-6) moved nine points clear of the Blackhawks for the top spot in the Central Division.

"I thought he was good throughout the game," Koivu said. "At the end, they had some good, quality chances. He was just calm, the way he's been all year long."


Loose pucks

• The Wild is 14-3-3 against the Central Division this season, including a 12-1-3 in its past 16.

Eric Staal scored an empty-net goal, which snapped a 13-game goal drought. It was his first goal since Jan. 19 against Arizona.

• The multi-point game was the 17th of Zucker's career.

• Minnesota converted on one of four power plays in the game while keeping Nashville off the board on each of its two chances.

• Ryan Suter dished out two assists and now has 25 helpers on the year. He was also a plus-3 on the night and is a League-leading plus-35.

• Defenseman Jonas Brodin returned after missing 14 games with a fractured finger and finished with 14:55 of ice time, a blocked shot and a plus-1 rating.

• Attendance: 19,292
 

He said it

"This time of year, there's different kinds of toughness. We're a team that can go hard to the net, take a punch in the head, draw a penalty and score on the power play. That's the kind of team we are. We're not a retaliatory team. We're not going to go and try to even the score, we're going to try and make you pay on the scoreboard." -- Wild forward Chris Stewart


They said it

"I thought we were really coming in the second period with opportunities to get into the game and they ended up catching up on that one turned over on the offensive blue coming back the other way. Just tough bounces. I thought the guys were ready, they played hard, just better execution needed." -- Predators coach Peter Laviolette


Three stars

* Jason Zucker

** Mikko Koivu

*** Devan Dubnyk

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