NASHVILLE – This was a different version of the Predators, with a steady and sharp group skating in place of the one that faded only three nights before in St. Paul.
But the Wild also wasn’t the same.
It wasn’t as crisp, cohesive or clutch as it was when it dismantled the Predators 4-1 Saturday, but it was competitive — rallying to add another point to its stash in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Western Conference-leading Predators on Tuesday in front of 17,424 at Bridgestone Arena that had the Wild encouraged by its conviction.
“It wasn’t our best by any means,” winger Charlie Coyle said. “But we kept building, and to come back against a team like that in this building is pretty good stuff. We’ll learn from it but take some positives out of it.”
Nashville center Kyle Turris was the only player to convert in the shootout, the second time the Predators celebrated a victory. It looked like they had ended overtime only 40 seconds in when defenseman Ryan Ellis’ wind-up sailed by goalie Devan Dubnyk, but the play was reviewed and it was determined to be offside.
“We all thought there was a chance it was offside,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We didn’t know for sure. My vision is not that good from that far away. Definitely when we saw the replay, we knew it was offside.”
The do-over didn’t help the Wild, as forwards Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu blanked on their shootout attempts, while Ellis missed for the Predators. Dubnyk finished with 28 saves, while Pekka Rinne had 22.
But the point was significant, growing the Wild’s cushion over the Avalanche for the third spot in the Central Division to four with six games to go for each side.
“One point is big for us,” Boudreau said.
Even that looked like a pipe dream through the first two periods. The Wild barely tested Rinne after crashing his crease frequently Saturday and getting rewarded for it.
“I think they made changes to their game since last game,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “It was definitely tougher. They were a lot more stingier at their blue line.”
And with the Predators sporting a one-goal lead after captain Roman Josi’s successful point shot 2:51 into the first, it looked like the team was poised to bubble-wrap it to safety — especially with the Wild committing five penalties in the second. Nashville went 0-for-4, while the Wild was 0-for-2.
“It was a tough game,” center Eric Staal said. “There wasn’t a lot of room. It was tight both ways, which was to be expected.”
Finally in the third, the Wild started to find space to get to Rinne and it cashed in with 3:15 to go when winger Mikael Granlund set up Staal, who slid the puck by Rinne for his 40th goal of the season to become only the second player in team history to reach the plateau.
“It feels good,” Staal said.
That goal seemed to galvanize the Wild for overtime, and it came close to settling it there with Granlund hitting the post and Staal getting a quality look.
“I like that we stuck with it,” Staal said. “It’s tight. This is the way it’s going to be here down the stretch, and playoff hockey is that type. You have to stay with it. We got experience in this room to understand that it’s not always pretty. You need to find ways, and it was a big point.”