That the Wild didn’t exit the ice empty-handed was encouraging, a nod to a gutsy resilience that has emerged at an opportune time as the team continues to vie for a playoff spot.
But because the Wild let what looked like a winnable game slip through its grasp to fall short of the perfect standard it has set of late, it still stirred mixed feelings — even if it did come amid trying circumstances. The 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators on Sunday in front of an announced 18,885 at Xcel Energy Center ended a five-game winning streak, tied for the longest this season.
“It was good to get one point,” winger Jason Zucker said, “but wish we definitely could have gotten two.”
Arriving back in the Twin Cities on the brink of morning after a late-night victory Saturday in Calgary to face a rested Nashville squad, the Wild was only minutes away from sweeping a back-to-back. But a lopsided push by the Predators finally culminated in the tying goal — a backhand by winger Filip Forsberg off a rebound 15 minutes, 41 seconds into the third period.
Following a scoreless overtime and 1-1 deadlock through three shootout rounds after goals from Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis and winger Zach Parise, center Ryan Johansen tucked in the decisive puck during Nashville’s fourth attempt. Wingers Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala and Zucker missed for the Wild, which also blanked on two power play chances.
“You want to win those,” center Eric Fehr said. “You want to close those out.”
The result kept the Wild in the second wild-card position in the Western Conference with 71 points — top wild card Dallas also has 71 points — and a 1-0-1 back-to-back showing during a 5-0-1 stretch is solid — especially considering that fatigue seemed to be a factor early.
Just 5:21 into the first period, Predators winger Nick Bonino buried a carom off defenseman Anthony Bitetto behind backup Alex Stalock — who racked up 41 saves.
By the second period, though, the Wild started to pick up the pace thanks to a string of odd-man breaks.
Fehr was off on a breakaway after blocking a wind-up by Rocco Grimaldi, and he capitalized — wiring a shot by goalie Juuse Saros’ glove at 16:35.
That ignited an even stronger push by the Wild the rest of the period. With 38 seconds left in the frame, defenseman Ryan Suter found Zucker for a one-timer in front by Saros. He finished with 24 saves.
Zucker’s 17th goal extended his point streak to a season-high five games, while the assist was Suter’s third point in the past 24 hours. Suter scored the game-winner in the 4-2 win over the Flames, along with chipping in an assist.
Center Eric Staal also continued his season-best point streak, pushing it to six games with the secondary helper on Zucker’s goal.
The Predators took over in the third, outshooting the Wild 14-3. That pressure not only paved the way for their equalizer, which came just seconds after the Wild killed off its second penalty of the night, but it also set the stage for their victory in extra time. It was a disappointing finish for the Wild but one that still created optimism.
“It’s got a lot of heart,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of his team. “They want to win. They don’t want to be thought of as the team that didn’t make it. They are giving it everything that they have.”