ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild sensed the longer they stayed in a one-goal game with the Nashville Predators it wouldn’t be long before they rallied.
Why should playing a Nashville team on the second day of a back-to-back be any different? These days, Minnesota just believes it is going to come back.
Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck scored third-period goals, Josh Harding made 23 saves and the Wild won their fifth straight with a 3-2 victory over the Predators on Wednesday night.
“I think if you were watching the game there was a pretty good sense we were going to do it eventually,” Clutterbuck said. “They played last night. They got one early, but really when they scored I think the shots were 6-0 and we had a couple of Grade-A scoring chances.
“That’s the thing. That’s why we’re succeeding right now is just the resilience. They didn’t have enough gas to keep up. We put one in and there’s no looking back from there.”
Minnesota has won seven games when behind or tied heading into the third period. Rallying has become routine for the Wild, who entered play Wednesday tied atop the Western Conference with Chicago.
Heatley tied it at 1:05 of the third with his sixth goal of the season.
Brodziak got his fifth of the season on a power play at 9:39, and Clutterbuck capped the run with his fifth of the season, a short-handed goal with 6:41 left.
Nashville, coming off a 6-2 home loss to Edmonton, couldn’t keep up with Minnesota in the third period.
“I think it was just a matter of guys talking to each other and saying eventually they’re going to crack,” Brodziak said. “We’re sticking with the same program. It’s working right now. They’re not an easy team to play against. They don’t give up easy goals. But I think that’s the most impressive thing tonight. We didn’t get frustrated.”
Jordin Tootoo opened the scoring for the Predators with his second goal at 5:21 of the season. Ryan Suter added a power-play goal to cut it to 3-2 at 13:57.
Pekka Rinne made 27 saves for Nashville, which had gained points in 10 of its 11 games before two straight losses.
“It was thousand times better than last night,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we managed the puck better. I thought we adjusted well to Minnesota’s style in terms of what they do breaking out of the zone. It was a much better effort. We had better focus, we stayed with the game plan longer and I wish we would have gotten a point or two out of it.”
Before the game, the Wild signed 51-year-old recreational hockey goalie Paul Deutsch to an amateur tryout contract after Niklas Backstrom was forced to miss the game for personal reasons.
Deutsch participated in pre-game warmups, but was scratched after Matt Hackett was recalled from Houston and arrived in time for the game.
Harding didn’t need any help.
Tootoo squeezed a shot between Harding’s pads and the puck trickled across the line on the Predators’ first shot of the game. Getting his second straight start, Harding kept Nashville at bay until Minnesota’s offence got going.
Heatley finished off a pass from Mikko Koivu on a 2-on-1 break, deflecting the cross-ice pass past Rinne.
Brodziak’s one-timer went under Rinne’s right arm to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.
Clutterbuck capitalized on a breakaway less than four minutes later. Koivu bounced a pass off the sideboards and found Clutterbuck. Rinne came out to challenge Clutterbuck and slipped, allowing Clutterbuck to coast in for his fifth of the season.
“I was going to come play the puck and it kind of stopped and I changed my mind and I fell down,” Rinne said. “It’s just terrible, I lost the game for us.”
Notes: Minnesota put D Marek Zidlicky on injured reserve with a concussion to make room for Hackett. Zidlicky had missed the past two games. … Wild D Marco Scandella played for the first time since sustaining a concussion on Nov. 12 against Los Angeles. … Heatley’s goal early in the third period snapped Rinne’s 145-minute shutout streak against Minnesota. … Minnesota is 7-0-1 against the Central Division and 13-3-2 against the Western Conference…. Nashville D Shea Weber had his five-game point streak snapped. Weber had been on the ice for 13 straight Predators’ goals before having the streak stopped Tuesday night.