What’s new, State of Hockey legion?
The Minnesota Wild had a pair of birthday boys yesterday. Let’s all wish a very happy birthday to Dany Heatley, who turned 32, and Ryan Suter, who celebrated his 28th birthday. I’d suggest we all sing them a stirring rendition of “Happy Birthday,” but then we might owe Sir Paul McCartney some royalties. Tonight, Suter is keeping the party going against his former team, the Nashville Predators. The blueliner spent the first seven seasons of his career in Nashville before signing with Minnesota on July 4, and we’re sure glad to have him. Today marks the first of four meetings on the season between the two clubs.
The contest also marks the end of the Wild’s three-game home stand, as Minnesota goes for a perfect 3-0 record to start the season. They have a pretty good shot because Niklas Backstrom is guarding the goal and he’s 7-4-1 with a 2.83 goals against average and .907 save percentage against the Preds.
Watching the game as healthy scratches will be forward Matt Kassian and defenseman Matt Dumba.
The Wild is outfitted in its Iron Range red sweaters, while Nashville is wearing its white road with Predator head jersey with yellow and blue trim.
Get to the chopper!
Period 1 – MIN 1, NSH 1
While Minnesota was rested yesterday, Nashville played in an overtime game before flying to the State of Hockey. The Wild got off to a fast start, playing a solid neutral zone game, and the Preds looked a bit sluggish.
Minnesota took advantage early, keeping continuous pressure on the Preds early in the period. Their persistence paid off as Dany Heatley skated the puck from the corner up to the top of the right circle. Zach Parise was stationed out front and was calling for the puck. Heatley fired a wrist shot that was deflected on its way in. It hit Predators defender Kevin Klein, and, as of right now, Parise on the way in. There is some confusion in the Al Shaver Press Box because of the way Parise reacted to the goal, but we’ll have to wait to see if it is changed.
Updated: Heatley credited with the goal, assists from Stoner and Parise.
The Preds answered at the end of the period, Nick Spaling, apparently a Wild killer, scored on a rebound shot from Kevin Klein. Spaling has five goals in nine games against the Wild and only 14 in 173 games against the rest of the NHL. How does that work? He must like the State of Hockey.
You know the Wild are going to come out strong in the second, because if it bleeds, we can kill it.
Period 2 - MIN 1, NSH 1
The second was a stalemate of a period, with solid defensive zone play from each team. Each goaltender was tested a few times, and both were up to the challenge. After a first period fight between Zenon Konopka and Rich Clune, the physical play leveled out and with few scrums after the whistle. Each team had two power play chances, but no dice on either side. Nashville held a slight shot advantage over the Wild, 10-7.
It feels like the Wild was just playing possum, and will come out strong in the third. Stick around.
Period 3 - MIN 1, NSH 3
Sometimes you can play a sound defensive game and one bounce can make all the difference. That was the case tonight, as the Wild allowed one of those bad ‘puck luck’ goals that occasionally happens over the course of an NHL season, even a shortened one. In the third period, the Wild and Predators were skating on a four-on-four after offsetting penalties. The puck was cleared to the point, but just out of the reach of Jared Spurgeon. As the puck drifted to mid ice, Niklas Backstrom came out to play it. He fired a shot up the wall, but it hit Martin Erat in the leg and the Preds forward just had to slam it into the empty net.
With less than 20 seconds left, Tom Gilbert’s stick broke on a clearing pass and it went right to Nick Spaling. He found David Legwand on the back door for a one-time clincher.
The Wild gets a chance to make its own puck luck on Friday, in Detroit against the Red Wings.
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