The Predators got it to a shootout, but Brian Rolston’s goal was the difference in the tiebreaker as the Wild escaped with a 7-6 victory Thursday night. Down 6-3 in regulation, the Wild refused to give in to the Predators in a game that was a shootout from start to finish. Each team recorded 45 shots on goal.
“I was telling the guys to keep plugging,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We were doing fine. We were just having a little tough luck. Coming back like this is great for our team. It shows we don’t let up.”
No one has to convince Nashville goaltender Chris Mason of that.
“They just kept coming at us,” Mason said. “They just don’t quit. I think I could have been a bit better, and I think we could have been a bit better in the defensive zone. If you give them an opportunity they are pretty deadly.”
The Predators were short on defence for much of the third period. Mikko Lehtonen left the game after taking an elbow to the head, and Shea Weber was lost after he was hit in the mouth and nose by a high stick.
“With only four defencemen, we had some pressure on our back end,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We were a little tired in the third period. They came in and broke us down a little bit. We lost coverage. And it only takes one guy to lose coverage in order for the other team to capitalize.”
Rolston scored in the second extra round of the tiebreaker after Nashville’s Paul Kariya squandered a chance to win the game with a penalty shot with 38 seconds left in overtime.
“After watching the others I knew what I wanted to do,” Rolston said. “Pavol Demitra beat Mason to his stick side. I skated in and faked like I was going to his stick side. He opened up then and I shot it right by him.”
After Rolston’s goal gave the Wild a 3-2 lead in the shootout, Josef Vasicek couldn’t find the net on the Predators’ final shot. Vasicek has been seldom used this season, but Trotz had confidence.
“When we have shootouts in practice, Josef is always one of the top finalists,” Trotz said. “He knows what he is doing.”
Nashville scored three goals in each of the first two periods, but the Wild responded with five over the final 40 minutes to force overtime.
David Legwand gave Nashville a 1-0 lead with a breakaway goal at 8:09 of the first period.
Minnesota answered at 10:09 when Wes Walz skated alone through the slot and one-timed a shot between Mason’s pads for a short-handed goal.
Ryan Suter ripped a shot from just inside the blue line that beat Manny Fernandez to his glove side at 17:38 for a 2-1 Nashville lead.
Dan Hamhuis gave the Predators a two-goal lead less than a minute later, scoring for the first time this season.
Mikko Koivu scored on the power play with a shot from above the right circle at 2:28 of the second period to bring Minnesota within 3-2, but Kimmo Timonen padded the Wild’s advantage again with 7:32 left in the frame.
Pascal Dupuis cut the deficit to 4-3 with 6:54 remaining before Nashville’s Vernon Fiddler and Steve Sullivan scored goals 2:13 apart.
The Wild got one back in the final minute of the period when Stephane Veilleux made it 6-4 with his second of the season. Fernandez was then replaced by Niklas Backstrom.
That move wasn’t enough to halt Minnesota’s comeback.
Demitra got the Wild within a goal 5:26 into the third, and Brent Burns tied it with a one-timer from the slot at 11:39.
Mason finished with 39 saves in a losing cause.
Notes: Legwand and Sullivan are tied for the team lead in goals with six. Walz has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last three games. Nashville is 3-1 in the second half of back-to-back games this season. … Nashville’s J.P. Dumont had three assists, giving him six in three games against the Wild this season. Demitra has three goals and three assists against Nashville.