NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With three rookie defencemen in their lineup, the Nashville Predators were looking for anything other than a close, tight game.
But goalie Pekka Rinne and the rest of the Predators held it together and outlasted the slumping Minnesota Wild in a 2-1 shootout victory on Wednesday night.
Count Rinne among those who like what they’ve seen from newcomers Jonathon Blum, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.
“They are playing their games and playing to their strengths,” Rinne said. “They are not trying to not make mistakes. That’s the biggest thing for them.”
Colin Wilson scored the only goal in the shootout, and that was enough for the Predators to send the Wild to their eighth straight loss.
“We thought Wilson was ready for it,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I give a lot of credit to Mitch Korn, our goaltending coach, who breaks down the opposition’s goaltenders.”
Jordin Tootoo scored for the Predators, with an assist from Blum, to give Nashville a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the third period. Dany Heatley tied it for the Wild with 3:59 remaining in regulation.
Wilson, in only his second shootout attempt of the season, beat Josh Harding with a backhanded shot. He credited the scouting report with his decision to make that move.
“I looked for some area there and I didn’t see anything so I quickly moved to my backhand and went up top,” Wilson said. “I was pretty confident coming in that I could make that play.”
Rinne, undefeated in five home games against the Wild, was the primary reason the Predators were in position to win. He stopped 34 shots through overtime and perfect in the shootout.
“Everyone is playing really well, and that’s what we need,” Predators defenceman Ryan Suter said. “It all starts with Pekka.
“It was pretty tight out there, I think that is fair to say. They defended well. I thought we played great defensively. We really stepped up our game and focused on playing defence.”
The Wild outshot the Predators 11-10 in the first period, 11-5 in the second and 35-25 overall. Minnesota, 0-5-3 since winning at Phoenix on Dec. 10, had the only four shots in overtime.
Tootoo scored when he deflected Blum’s wrist shot from the point.
“I didn’t see it,” Harding said. “There was a high screen, and one of our guys was in the way. I heard it hit the post. I was hoping it went the other way instead of in the net.”
Heatley tied it by scoring on a wraparound shot that went under the outstretched pads of Pekka Rinne.
Minnesota coach Mike Yeo was pleased with the way his team played and was thankful to earn a point in the standings.
“For sure it was important, and not just for the sake of getting a point,” Yeo said. “It was a reminder that if we stay with things, if we play our game for 60 minutes, then we are going to have a great chance to win the game. We didn’t win the game today, but I believe we deserved to win it.”
The Predators played their second game without defenceman Shea Weber, the team captain and points leader with 29 in 35 games, who is sidelined by a concussion. Weber is out indefinitely with a concussion.
NOTES: Nashville’s Gabriel Bourque was recalled from Milwaukee of the AHL and made his NHL debut. It was the second game in a row the Predators had a player in his first NHL game. … The Predators reassigned C Blake Geoffrion to Milwaukee and placed D Kevin Klein on the injured list. … The Wild have allowed the first goal in 24 of 38 games this season. This was the third overtime game in the last seven. … Mississippi State and Wake Forest, who will meet in the Music City Bowl, were in attendance.