The game-deciding moments in Saturday’s rematch between the Wild and Predators came in the third period.
That’s when Nashville broke a scoreless tie by scoring three straight to post a 3-0 victory at Bridgestone Arena to split the home-and-home back-to-back series with their Central Division foe.
But the seeds for the Wild’s eventual demise might have been planted earlier, like in the second period when the team committed three penalties – yet another string of shorthanded play that seemed to drain the team’s offensive talent.
“It is frustrating,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We show them, and we talk about them. But it continually happens.”
It was the 19th consecutive game in which the penalty kill had to go to work at least three times; not since Nov.20 against the Devils has the unit worked to snuff out just two power plays for the opposition.
The Predators didn’t convert with the man advantage in the second, but they did in the third – and at even strength, the ultimate difference in the game.
Perhaps if the Wild didn’t waste valuable time in its own end on the kill in the second, it would have generated an opportunity that put it ahead earlier. And in such a tight-checking game, that might have been just the boost it needed to seal a win.
“It didn’t really allow us to get to our offense and our down-low game,” center Matt Cullen said.
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s loss to the Predators.
- Although the penalty kill was ushered into duty way too much yet again, the unit did a solid job giving up only one goal in five opportunities.
The PK continues to rank as one of the best in the NHL, sitting fifth at 83.8 percent.
“We were great on the kill and if we’re killing one penalty or six penalties, this group in here we’re out in the top half for a reason and guys want to get in lanes,” goalie Alex Stalock said. “That’s what we did tonight.”
- Amid the scoreless hockey and succession of scoring chances at both ends, the game definitely had a playoff vibe to it.
Perhaps it was related to the matchup, as the Predators are the reigning Western Conference champs. Or maybe this is the way most games are going to feel the rest of the way.
“That’s what you’re expecting against a team like that,” winger Charlie Coyle said. “We’re fine playing that way.”
- Stalock has shifted back into the No.2 role behind Devan Dubnyk, and the transition looked like an easy one, as he was steady yet again – holding off the Predators for much of regulation amid 26 saves.
“I feel bad for Alex, who the last two road games in tough buildings has stood on his head, and he’s not been rewarded for it,” said Boudreau, referring to the 3-0 loss to the Lightning Dec.23.