It could not have been an easy night for Ryan Suter tonight in Nashville as the fans let him have it for leaving the Predators and signing a 13-year deal with the Wild last summer.
Read the gamer for more details, but it started in warmups.
Besides signs by a dozen fans with things like, “Nashville’s a great place to raise a family, too,” and some less nicer things, some fans held up pictures of “Robin” – as in Robin to Shea Weber’s Batman.
Zenon Konopka found that hilarious and got Suter laughing in warmups, and that was a good thing. It calmed a very nervous Suter down. Of course, I still wonder if some of these fans understand that Weber signed an offer sheet with Philadelphia and tried his best to structure the contract in a way that would make it impossible for Nashville to match!
As the Wild’s starting lineup was announced, the Predators’ game ops department cleverly played Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” – even though Suter wasn’t starting.
Suter was loudly booed the moment he hopped over the boards for the first time. He was booed every time he touched the puck – even once when he touched up for an icing. Usually this stuff tapers off by game’s end. This lasted the whole thing. Suter joked the fans would have sore throats tomorrow.
The Predators didn’t give Suter a video tribute despite doing so for most their other returning players -- most with far less significant impact on the franchise than Suter.
“They talked about a video, I know that,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Our organization said, ‘we’re not going to do that, we’re not going to put Ryan in a bad spot,’ and the fans let him know. I think it was a really good decision by our organization, they always do things first class and that was a way to protect Ryan who was here for a number of years. Get used to it. You’re going to see him in the conference the next 14 years. If the fans can keep that up the next 14 years, that would be awesome.”
(Just a correx: Suter signed for 13 years).
Suter played a strong game during the Wild’s 2-1 shootout win, logging 28:59 in ice time and assisting on Zach Parise’s power-play goal. He leads the league with an average of 27:31 a game, has a six-game point streak and is tied for third among NHL defensemen with 15 assists.
He was in the box for David Legwand’s power-play goal, but it’s fair to say that most the time a scrum in front of the net after an opposing player crashes would result in a 4-on-4 rather than Suter mysteriously being the only one pulled from a mad pile.
The fans loved it and raised the roof during the ensuing TV timeout. Frankly, it's why these fans here in Nashville that have sold out this barn 25 consecutive nights are so good. Always lively and fun.
But the Wild stuck with it and wound up snapping a five-game winless streak in Nashville.
“When you win games, that’s all that matters,” Suter said. “If we could win the rest of the games, and I get booed the whole game, that’s all part of it.”
Said Mike Yeo: “You could tell that our guys wanted to help make this a good night for him.”
In the shootout, Niklas Backstrom was only beaten once, Mikko Koivu, who had a tough game through OT (kept falling and losing pucks on the chippy Nashville ice), scored his 29th career goal and Matt Cullen his 21st.
Cal Clutterbuck returned to the Wild’s lineup after missing six games with a thigh contusion. It was a physical game, but not only because of Clutterbuck’s season-high eight hits.
On the first shift, Rich Clune pasted Jared Spurgeon twice. Martin Erat also nailed Spurgeon, while Spurgeon would later get Mike Fisher back.
In the second period, big defenseman Justin Falk checked Colin Wilson hard in the chest. Wilson fell hard into the dasher and was lost for the game with what looked like a painful upper-body injury. He’ll be reevaluated Monday.
Great bounceback game by the Wild (especially the defensemen; Clayton Stoner was outstanding) after the loss Tuesday in Chicago. Yeo raved about the leadership the past few days and called it a complete team effort.
“It was a good game all around,” Cullen said. “It was not an easy game. It was a positive step forward the way we stuck with the game and continued to battle for 60 minutes, tonight a little more. Two important points. Sets us up for a very big weekend if we can continue on here [against Vancouver on Sunday night].”
The Wild is now two points behind the Canucks.
Backstrom is now an insane 20-2-4 in his first start after being pulled in a game and 16-0-2 since March 26, 2008. He entered the game with a 1.94 goals against average and .932 save percentage in those instances.
We’re getting Yeo at 5 p.m. Sunday, so I’m not certain I’ll know if Backstrom gets the nod vs. the Canucks or if Matt Hackett starts until then. Remember, the Wild gets in late and lose an hour with daylight savings. With so many key games coming up, the Wild may choose to rest him.
Speaking of which, I have a 6 a.m. flight, which is really 5 a.m. So adios and talk to you Sunday.
More from Russo's Rants
I'll be at the State Fair on Friday talking to Wild fans
Brett Bulmer, a 2010 second-round pick, scored a disappointing four goals and 12 assists in 53 games with the Iowa Wild last season.
The team will have part of its training camp in Duluth.
Outdoor game Feb. 20 at TCF Bank Stadium to feature former stars of three teams.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Wild players and others will be at a media event this afternoon to promote the Feb. 21 game at TCF Bank Stadium. Here's how much tickets for the game will cost and more.