ST. PAUL, Minn. – After a rough start to the season, the Minnesota Wild are headed in the right direction. Andrew Ebbett and Guillaume Latendresse joined the charge at just the right time, for them and their new team.
Ebbett’s rebound shot in overtime lifted the Wild to a 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.
“I’ve really enjoyed myself here,” Ebbett said. “It’s been frustrating so far this year, so it’s a big relief to jump in and help out right away and get some opportunities.”
Latendresse, who scored in the first period, was stopped twice by Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne before Ebbett put his stick out to punch in the next try for Minnesota with a backhand from the slot.
“Definitely the right place at the right time,” said Ebbett, who has two goals in four games for the Wild and could’ve been referring to his change of address too.
Ebbett was claimed from Chicago – his second time on waivers this season – and Latendresse came in a trade with Montreal, both in the past two weeks. Neither of them were fitting in with their previous teams, so the switch was welcomed. Latendresse, who has two goals in three games, played more than 17 minutes.
“You know that they’re going to have that initial energy where they want to come in and they want to do really well,” coach Todd Richards said, adding: “Whenever you bring in somebody new, there’s always a little bit of a threat of guys getting ice time and position. So it’s that competition amongst the team, which is a healthy thing.”
Jason Arnott scored twice, including the go-ahead goal early in the third period, helping Nashville’s top line get back on track. Steve Sullivan, who had three assists, tied the game at 3 with his goal midway through the second period.
“I talked to all three of them,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought they could have a bigger impact on the game, and they did tonight.”
Sullivan, Arnott and J.P. Dumont totalled nine points after a flat performance in a 5-0 loss to Calgary on Monday. They combined for four shots on goal and a minus-5 rating in that game.
“It’s kind of up to us to lead by example and lead the way offensively and defensively,” said Arnott, Nashville’s captain. “We wanted to come out tonight, keep our feet moving and stay with it. Just work hard, and good things should happen.”
The Wild are rounding into form under Richards, with at least one point in their past five games, a season-long streak. They’ve won three straight, and handed the Predators their third loss in their past four games, following a seven-game winning streak.
This, despite managing only three shots in the second period and being on their heels for the majority of the game.
“I think the team showed some character tonight, as far as gutting out a win,” Richards said.
Rinne was in net for all three of Nashville’s recent losses, allowing 12 goals.
“At least we got a point,” he said.
Two Wild shots hit the post in the first period, and Minnesota had a 3-2 lead after getting only nine shots on net.
“We turned pucks over like we were handing out Christmas presents,” Trotz said.
The Predators controlled the pace and were on the verge of victory until an uncharacteristic penalty gave the Wild a power play.
Andrew Brunette’s crisp pass across the slot set up the tying score for Mikko Koivu, who high-stepped in place several times from his spot in the circle to celebrate his seventh goal this season.
Francis Boullion was called for tripping, just the third whistle against Nashville during the game. The Predators – who had a seven-game winning streak stop in late November – have moved up in the Western Conference with tight defence. They began the day with the second-fewest penalties in the NHL, and Minnesota was tied for the fourth least.
There wasn’t a power play in this crisp, clean game until midway through the second period.
NOTES: In 10 career games for the Predators against the Wild, Sullivan has 19 points. … These teams play again on Saturday in Nashville. … Antti Miettinen (illness) scored for the Wild after a three-game absence. … In addition to Miettinen, Minnesota brought RW Martin Havlat (hamstring) back to the lineup after a four-game absence. Signed to a six-year contract worth $30 million this summer to help fill the scoring void created when Marian Gaborik left, Havlat has two goals and seven assists in 20 games and is a minus-16.