NASHVILLE – Same opponent.
Less than 24 hours after the Wild shrugged off the Predators 4-2 at home, the script flipped with the Predators holding off the Wild 3-0 Saturday in front of 17,459 at Bridgestone Arena to halt the Wild’s momentum against the Central Division in the finale of a rare home-and-home back-to-back.
“It would have been nice to get this one tonight,” center Matt Cullen said. “It’s frustrating to let it go, but I think we’re coming in the right direction.”
On the heels of a 1-4 stretch before the Christmas break, the Wild resumed action by pocketing four of a possible six points against its division rivals amid wins against the Stars and Predators.
And it looked poised to lasso at least one more before Nashville winger Scott Hartnell broke a scoreless tie 2 minutes, 23 seconds into the third period.
Predators goalie Juuse Saros turned aside 29 shots for his second shutout of the season, while Alex Stalock had 26 saves in the battle of the backups.
“It was a little different than last night,” winger Charlie Coyle said. “We kind of expected that. We knew they were going to tighten up after last night’s performance.”
Familiarity from Friday probably stoked the back-and-forth struggle that had the feel of a playoff game, but a pair of scoreless periods was also a factor.
After an even first, the action opened up in the second.
Winger Mikael Granlund, who had four goals in his previous two games, had a redirect go wide and was later stopped when he pounced on a rebound from a Gustav Olofsson wrister. Cullen also had a glorious chance, cutting to the middle before getting off a backhand shot.
But the Predators had a few close calls, too; winger Austin Watson lost the handle in tight, and winger Viktor Arvidsson sent a shot off the post.
In total, the Predators outshot the Wild 11-8 in the period with Nashville receiving three looks on the power play. The Wild survived each chance, but the shorthanded minutes seemed to sap the team in the third when the ice began to tilt in the Predators’ favor.
“It’s taking a lot of steam out of some offensive players,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You could see maybe a little bit of fatigue was setting in. You’re trying not to play these guys, but you need them to play in tough situations.
“So consequently, maybe in the third period there isn’t enough energy there to muster up some offense.”
Not long after Hartnell’s goal — a wraparound effort after picking up a loose puck — the Wild had an opportunity to find the equalizer on the power play. But its advantage was cut short by its fifth penalty of the game.
And on the ensuing power play, the Predators capitalized to go up 2-0 on a blistering one-timer from the point courtesy of defenseman P.K. Subban at 7:50. Arvidsson added an empty-net goal with 2:20 remaining.
Nashville finished 1-for-5 with the man advantage, while the Wild was 0-for-3.
It was the second time in the past four games the Wild had been shut out, as the team was blanked 3-0 by the Lightning in its final test before the break.
The lack of execution was a bit surprising considering how timely the offense’s contributions had been in its previous two wins, but perhaps more disappointing was the missed opportunity to complete the sweep over the Predators.
“It was a tight game, a close game,” Coyle said, “and you gotta pull that out next time.”