Mikael Granlund could have lent his coach one of the various hats that littered the Xcel Energy Center ice after his hat trick Friday. But instead, Bruce Boudreau walked into his postgame news conference sporting a big ol’ bandage atop his head.
Taking a puck off the noggin is a painful hazard of the job, but at least a 4-2 victory for his team eased that discomfort.
“Think [Marcus] Foligno was trying to get it out,” Boudreau said of what he thinks was his first time enduring such a hit on the bench. “And Stewie ducked.”
So probably Chris Stewart will be skating extra reps next practice.
Despite the injury with about five minutes left in the game, the Wild beat the Nashville Predators — who led the Central Division entering the game — for the second time this season by yet another two-goal margin. Nashville fell to 22-10-5 while the Wild climbed to 20-15-3 in front of an announced crowd of 19,147.
The Wild faces Nashville again, this time at Bridgestone Arena, at 7 p.m. Saturday in the finale of a back-to-back, home-and-home series.
“I think individually, we realize how big this weekend is, and it’s really going to count if we follow it up tomorrow,” center Eric Staal said. “We were ready to play today. We were hungry for the win, and the biggest key now is to go in their building and do the same thing. It’s going to be a tough test. It’s a tough building to play in, but we should be up for it.”
The Wild outshot Nashville 11-0 to start the game before Granlund grabbed the breakthrough goal at 7 minutes, 34 seconds. Nashville registered its first shot on goal, which goaltender Devan Dubnyk saved in his first game back from injury after not playing in seven, shortly after that. While Dubnyk ended the game with 41 saves, he let Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban’s shot trickle past him at 10:16.
But Granlund came to the rescue again, scoring his second at 11:09 on a power play.
“It was a good start,” Granlund said. “I think it was the best start of the year for us. It makes it easier the whole game when you have a start like that and put the pressure on early.”
The Wild ended up setting a season high for shots on goal in a period, with the final tally 18-9. And the team didn’t let up in the second period, either.
Staal looked to have scored a deflection off defenseman Matt Dumba’s shot less than a minute into the second 20 minutes, but Nashville challenged for goaltender interference on Pekka Rinne and won. Dumba made up for that, though, scoring a bomb at 13:14 to extend the Wild’s lead.
Nashville center Kyle Turris pulled one back at 2:52 of the third period, scoring on a power play. But it wasn’t enough to spur his team’s comeback. The Predators ultimately won the shot battle 43-38.
Granlund secured the second hat trick of his career thanks to an empty-net goal with 50.3 seconds to play, after Boudreau quite literally took one for the team.
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette actually commented before the game on the Wild’s shot-blocking ability, calling the team one of the best in that department.
Apparently, that starts with the coach.
“That’s the identity of the Minnesota Wild, right there,” Dumba joked. “Blocking shots. I think we lead the league in it.”