As impressive of a Wild win this season, let alone road win, as the Wild walked into Nashville, where the NHL-best Predators had lost three times in regulation in 30 games, and won 4-2. Wild's back over .500 on the road for the first time since being 1-0. The Wild, which was at one point 2-6 on the road, has now won six of its last eight on the road.
“That was definitely one of the best all-around team efforts of the year,” Kyle Brodziak said after scoring a goal, an assist, being plus-3, winning 8 of 12 in the faceoff circle and being rock-solid on two penalty kills, especially the one in the third period of a one-goal game.
“You could tell everybody was into it right from the get-go. We had a great mindset going into the game and everything played out the way we could hope for.”
Nino Niederreiter scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season, Erik Haula had a goal in his best game of the season and Devan Dubnyk, who has allowed 31 goals in 19 games, stopped 27 of 29 against one of his former teams during this yearlong odyssey that has landed him in Minnesota.
The Sean Bergenheim trade caused Mike Yeo to shake up all four lines and that fourth line turned out to be yahtzee.
Haula, Brodziak and Justin Fontaine spent all night in the offensive zone, got assignments against Nashville’s best players and drew a penalty on top of the two goals.
“Those guys deserve a ton of credit for the way they played the game,” Yeo said. “Those guys, every shift they were making a difference, every shift they were creating chances and doing things the right way. Solid at both ends of the ice. They didn’t have easy matchups either.”
Said Brodziak, “It was one of those nights where it just felt like things were clicking and things were happening positively for us. The makeup of our line, we have the capability to play a smart game but also create once we get some turnovers and opportunities.”
Defensively, the Wild was outstanding and they did this in an up-and-down game. The Wild’s back pressure constantly disrupted plays and anytime there was a risky play in front of the net, the puck was sent into safe passages in the corner, along the wall or chipped out.
Ryan Suter, booed every time he touched the puck, was fabulous, but so too were guys like Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser, who was plus-3.
Yeo said, “I thought the play of our defensemen was outstanding all night. To have any kind of success against that team, the way that they played, you’re going to need that. There were certain aspects of our game that we asked them to focus on to make sure that we’re sharp in. we got a full commitment to that. It’s a huge team win.”
The Wild moved back into 8th and obviously it very much looks like Nashville will finish 1st. So technically, even though the Wild has 21 games left, this very could be a first-round matchup preview.
“I think that any playoff series would be awful fun right now, but we’ve got a lot of work to do until then,” Yeo said. “It’s important we stay on track.”
Yeo loves the responses after the Predators twice tied the score and the reunited Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Jordan Schroeder combined to set up a beautiful winning goal for Niederreiter in the second.
Yeo said, “They had a real strong game all night long. They looked very comfortable playing together.”
On Niederreiter getting to 20, Yeo said, “We need a guy like that to come into a building, play confident, play big like he did tonight and we need him to finish.”
Yeo liked Bergenheim’s game. He had four shots but was minus-2, but both goals weren’t his fault. Thomas Vanek lost Mike Fisher on the first goal and lost a board battle on the second that turned into Craig Smith’s breakaway.
Check out the gamer on startribune.com/wild for some great quotes by Dubnyk and Niederreiter and Brodziak and Haula (big bounceback game after being benched Tuesday) on the game, too.
Onto Denver now. The Wild has Friday off, so barring news, no blog from me as I work on my article for Saturday’s paper and my Sunday Insider package. Gotta go. 6 a.m. flight through MSP.
Crazy 9 p.m. CT start to that Avalanche game. I'll be on KFAN at 11:35 a.m. Saturday and on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission.