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Postgame Hat Trick: Predators 3, Wild 0

Second-period goals 10 seconds apart down Minnesota in Saturday matinee in Nashville

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /'s Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 3-0 loss against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Saturday afternoon:

1. If it's Nashville (40-27-11) and Minnesota (45-25-8) hooking up in a first-round playoff series, buckle up.

For all but about 30 seconds of Saturday's game, it was an up-and-down, tight-checking, back-and-forth affair where neither team was interested in giving up much in the way of quality scoring chances. 

On one end, Alex Stalock was stopping Nashville scoring chances left and right. On the other, Pekka Rinne was surrendering even less.

"We all know the standings and there's a good chance that's a team we'd be playing in the first round," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "I don't think we played a bad game. I don't think it was a lack of motivation. It was close game, it was a tight game. Again, we just gotta score on chances." 

Things even got a bit contentious on a few different occasions, as tensions between divisional foes often do this time of year. 

Minnesota has never faced Nashville in a playoff series before, but there's a chance it could happen this season. If it does, it could be lots of fun.

2. Making his second start since being recalled from Iowa on Wednesday, Stalock was rock solid once again, especially early in the game.

His left pad save on Calle Jarnkrok seconds into the game was one of the best saves by a Wild goaltender this season, and it prevented what should have been an easy tap-in and an early lead for the home team.

Video: MIN@NSH: Stalock lays out to rob Jankrok

"You've got to be prepared at all times. You know they're going to get chances like that throughout the night," Stalock said. "Tonight it just happened to be the first one. I wanted to be sharp and not let the club fall behind early."

After making 18 saves total against Ottawa on Thursday, Stalock made 12 in the first period alone on Saturday.

Video: MIN@NSH: Stalock knocks down Smith's wrist shot

In the second, Stalock was back at it again, robbing Jarnkrok as a power play expired, nearly reaching the left circle in coming out of his crease to shut down the angle. That stop was his 19th of the afternoon.

Video: MIN@NSH: Stalock leaves the crease to deny Jarnkrok

"I thought Stalock, quite frankly, the Ottawa game wasn't that difficult for him," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I knew this game would be difficult, and I wanted to see him under these conditions. He played really good."

Nashville finally broke past Stalock at 17:21 of the second period, but it took a re-direction of a point shot to do it, as Roman Josi's try was deflected by Filip Forsberg to break the ice.

Ten seconds later, it was 2-0 after a Wild turnover and a nice move at the goal mouth by Kevin Fiala. 

"It's a save I've got to make at that time of the game," Stalock said. "It's something you talk about when you're young, not giving up consecutive goals, so for it to be that quick ... It was really a one-one-one play with me and a player and I lost the battle. It's one I'd like to have back." 

P.K. Subban added an empty-net goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. Stalock finished the afternoon with 33 saves.

"He played well. Played well both games," Parise said. "He made some good saves again tonight. It wasn't an issue of goaltending at all."

3. The loss ended Minnesota's hopes of capturing the Central Division title. 

A rough month of March combined with a red-hot four-week span by the Chicago Blackhawks meant a loss of any kind by the Wild on Saturday clinched the division and home ice throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Blackhawks, who began the day three points behind the Washington Capitals in the race for the President's Trophy.

For now, the Wild will try to nail down home ice in the first round, which will happen if it maintains its grasp on second place in the Central Division. The Wild leads both St. Louis and Nashville by seven points for that honor, with the Blues and Predators meeting Sunday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The Blues have a game in hand.

Minnesota, meanwhile, will begin the final week of the regular season with the second of back-to-back games against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday at the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center. 

"We cant take anybody lightly. Theyre coming in off a win off St. Louis, so they're pretty hungry and pretty excited, and we've got to come to play," Boudreau said. "We have four games left. We've got to play them all hard and then hopefully we can be consistent come two weeks from now."

After that, the Wild finishes with a home game against Carolina on Tuesday, followed by road games versus Colorado and Arizona to wrap up the 2016-17 campaign.

Loose pucks

• Wild forward Jason Zucker did not play because of a lower-body injury. 

• Parise returned to the lineup after missing one game because of an upper-body injury. 

• Rinne finished with 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season.

• Ryan Johansen had an assist for Nashville, his 47th of the year.

• Minnesota went 0-for-1 on the power play, but kept the Predators scoreless on both of their man advantage opportunities.

• Attendance: 17,113

He said it

"The first 10 minutes, we were good. I think after that, we lost battles, we didn't do the things, you know... you don't get power plays because you don't make them pull you down or do anything wrong. I thought our goalie was really good today. I think he saved our bacon in the second period when it could have been probably a score of a little bit worse than it was. But we've got to come to play. We can't be satisfied with a 5-1 victory once a week here. We'll get back to the drawing board tomorrow and see how it goes." -- Wild coach Bruce Boudreau

They said it

"I thought both teams played really hard today. 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." -- Predators coach Peter Laviolette

Dan's three stars

* Pekka Rinne

** Kevin Fiala

*** Alex Stalock

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