Three first-period goals proved to be the difference as the Nashville Predators topped the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in front of a sell-out crowd on Saturday night at the Sommet Center. The victory gives the Predators three straight wins and six victories in the past eight outings. It was also Nashville’s first win over the Wild in five tries.
Dan Ellis put forth his third-straight stellar effort in net for the Predators, turning aside 29-of-30 shots. The Orangeville, Ontario native has now stopped 77 of the last 80 shots he has faced going back to Monday’s shutout in Dallas. J.P. Dumont was the evening’s First Star, posting a goal and an assist for the second straight game.
The two squads traded chances early, but the Predators drew first blood at 6:54 of the first period on a rebound goal by Martin Gelinas. The opportunity came thanks to solid forechecking by David Legwand, who picked Keith Carney’s pocket and threw the initial shot on goalie Josh Harding. A split-second later, Gelinas pounced on the loose puck and flipped it past the Minnesota netminder.
Legwand’s helper gives him seven points (1g-6a) in his last seven contests. He is now just one assist from 200 for his career.
Nashville’s offensive onslaught continued 63 seconds later when Dan Hamhuis gave the home team a two-goal lead. A simple slap shot did the trick, as Hamhuis nailed one from the point, and watched it soar through traffic and over Harding’s glove as he was checked to the ice.
Alexander Radulov set a career high by feeding Hamhuis at the point – he now has points in six straight games. Radulov finished the night with two assists to give him five goals and four assists in the span. Hamhuis, who assisted on the first goal, registered his third multi-point game of the season (1g-1a).
The Predators took a commanding 3-0 lead with just 1:50 left in the opening 20 minutes on a goal by Dumont. Radulov’s crafty hands were the author of the play, as he methodically picked through the Wild defense before backhanding a pass to his right. As the recipient, Dumont made no mistake, burying a one-timer for his 14th goal of the season, tied for the team lead.
The goal gave Dumont a career-high scoring streak of four games. He had scored in three straight games three previous times in his career before this current stretch. The red-hot Dumont’s also has 11 points (7g-4a) in his last 10 games.
The three-goal first marked back-to-back opening periods with three goals for the Predators. Prior to the Thursday against Edmonton, the Preds had notched three goals in the first only one other time – Nov. 4 in a 5-2 win at Chicago.
Dan Ellis stopped 29-of-30 shots, including this rebound attempt by James Sheppard, to lead Nashville to its third straight victory.
Minnesota got on the board early in the second to close the Nashville lead back to 3-1. At 3:43, Mark Parrish scored on his second of two shots – the first hit traffic in front and deflected back onto his stick.
The ice was tilted toward the Wild’s zone for the remainder of the middle 20 minutes, as Nashville created scoring chance after scoring chance, but couldn’t get that elusive fourth goal. Not a single penalty was called in the period, as the squads played an up-tempo, high-energy frame in which Minnesota narrowly outshot Nashville, 11-10, thanks to a number of counter attacks – its bread and butter.
Nashville continued to swarm the Wild net as the third commenced, but it was a quick rush by Martin Erat that finally got the Preds their fourth goal. What was initially a flip into the Minnesota zone by Jerred Smithson ended up being a loose puck that Erat blasted past Harding for his first goal since Dec. 6 vs. Vancouver.
Smithson's helper gives him points in back-to-back games (1g-1a) for the second time this season and the fifth time in his career.
Minnesota took more chances and created more pressure down the stretch, but Ellis had an answer for everything it threw at him, turning aside nine third-period shots en route to victory in his fourth straight decision.
Martin Erat, the author of Nashville's fourth goal, fends of Marian Gaborik during first-period play on Saturday.
The Predators had a season-low two penalty minutes, and held the Wild at bay in its lone power play chance. Nashville finished 0-for-3 with the man advantage, and both sides had 30 shots.
The Predators will now play their next three games on the road, including games on back-to-back nights on Monday in Anaheim and Tuesday in Los Angeles. Neither game will be televised locally, but can be heard on the radio at WGFX-104.5 The Zone.
Game Notes: Nashville scratched Ryan Suter and Jed Ortmeyer, while Minnesota sat Kurtis Foster, Martin Skoula and Matt Foy… Martin Erat and J.P. Dumont both have a team-high three points (2g-1a) in three games… Nashville is now 2-0-0 in the month of January. It went 10-3-0 in the month last year, and has a winning record in the year’s first month six times in the franchise’s eight seasons… Marek Zidlicky logged a team-high 23:07… Greg Zanon notched a game-high four hits… Dan Hamhuis and Greg de Vries were both notched a plus-seven rating… Hamhuis’ goal was his first since Nov. 29… The Predators are 17-2-1 when scoring the game’s first goal and 14-1-0 when leading after two periods… Tonight was the first time all season that shots-on-goal finished even (30-30)… The Predators penalty kill, which entered tonight ranked seventh in the NHL, has killed 58-of-63 power plays against in the last 14 games (92.1%)… These teams meet again at the Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 17.
Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz On putting goals early in the past couple games...
I just think we paid a lot of attention to detail and went to the hard areas and played good team defense. Good things happen off of good team defense. That’s really a mix of the both of it. There’s a lot of detail in our game.
On how Minnesota reacted to early lead by Predators...
We knew they were going to come out second period with their best. Once they got that goal, we did a good job of buckling down and didn’t break and as the period went on, we pulled the game back towards us. During the third period there wasn’t any concern and we’ve learned from the past and live in the moment.
On Minnesota’s power plays...
We know their power play has been very hot. I believe their game against Dallas they got five. They’ve been a very talented team, a high skill level, a lot of team speed and a lot of elements where they are very dangerous. We had to stay above the puck and not let people sneak behind us and we did that tonight. The fact that we’ve only given up three one on one goals in the past three games, that’s all the parts of our game coming together.
On Predators fans...
Well yeah the guys did a salute to the fans and the players recognize the fans are important and they gave them a salute for our sell-out. Players love Nashville and the fans and we hope they love us back which I believe they do with a full house tonight. I believe this was our first sell-out of the season.
Predators Goaltender Dan Ellis On the Predators current winning streak…
I think our team is a team to bet on right now. We’ve really turned our whole game around. We really played a defensive first game. We shutdown prime scoring chances of all the different teams we’ve played and we’ve played a lot of high offensive teams lately. Minnesota has some great players; Gaborik is a superstar. Dallas has some great players, L.A. has some great players, and we’ve done a really good job at just shutting teams down and eliminating their prime scoring chances.
On playing with a lead…
We have played really well in our first periods lately and it’s come down to having a strong focus right out of the gate. Early in the season, we had some struggles in our first periods and get behind. It’s always easier to play with a lead than it is dragging from behind. We’ve been able to jump on top of teams lately and get some good offense, some good fire power, and it has really helped us.
On playing in front of a sellout crowd…
It was outstanding. If we could get more of those that would just be absolutely awesome. Our fans were right behind us tonight, especially having the National Guard. It was great to see them come out. It was great to see our fans support them just as much as they support us. They’ve done so much for us. For us to get a win and give them a salute back for their support, it was a great feeling.
Predators Forward J.P. Dumont On playing with a lead…
Right now we are playing with confidence and it’s something huge for us. We know, especially when we play with a lead, we are a different team and we are a tough team to play against. When we play with confidence, we use our speed, and tonight was a big win. Every aspect of the game, especially when we stay out of the box, it was something that was huge for us tonight.
On playing in front of a sellout crowd…
It felt good. It’s been tough for the fans with all the rumors about moving the team, but now we are here to stay. We are playing some good hockey and our fans have always been there, but with a sellout crowd like tonight, it was a lot of fun. It was just a special thanks to the fans tonight after the game. It’s a lot of fun and when there is a crowd like that, we felt that instead of six players on the ice, we felt like there were seven. We had the five forwards, a goalie, and the fans were really behind us. It’s a huge boost for us.
On starting a road trip on a winning streak…
Every game is huge for us right now. We put ourselves in a situation where we don’t have the luxury to let a few games go. We’re back close to the eight playoff spot. We have to keep going. I know it’s not going to be easy, we all know that. We have two games and we have to play the same way, like we’re at home. If we keep playing the same way, I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of success.
Predators Forward Jason Arnott On what things have been done differently…
We are hitting the net a lot more than we had in the past, getting lots of traffic; it’s important, especially against these goalies nowadays. We are getting lots of traffic and pucks are finding their way in the net now.
On the current winning streak…
No question. It’s nice. You have to look at the standings everyday and any loss now is a crucial loss. We have to be prepared every single game to come out with points. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but so far we’re off to a great start, we just have to keep it going.
On playing with an early lead…
It’s a lot easier when your goalies are making saves for you, no question. Both of our goalies have played well for us this year at times. I think as a team, we are playing better in front of them, which helps a lot. We aren’t giving up too many chances, leaving them back there by themselves, so it’s helping a lot and they are making huge saves for us when they need to.
On what from the winnings streak needs to be carried over to the road trip…
Confidence is a huge thing. Going on the road, it seems that you play a little more simple, which is fine with us. It’s a time now where we can’t get over confident with ourselves, but we still have to put pressure on ourselves to go out and win. We are playing Anaheim in the next game and they are playing well now. They have Niedermayer back, so it’s going to be a tough challenge, but we have the guys in here to do it.
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