NASHVILLE – The Wild’s performance in the first period was the kind of start that can set up a team up for success even though there’s still two-thirds of the game to go.
Not only was the action almost exclusively in the Predators’ zone, but the pressure applied by the Wild was meaningful — 13 shots, with many quality chances.
“That was probably our best period of hockey in this building in a long time,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
But the push wasn’t perfect because one important ingredient was missing.
After the Wild failed to capitalize while it was in charge, the Predators recovered and pulled away for a 4-0 victory Thursday in front of 17,386 at Bridgestone Arena that halted the Wild’s momentum from back-to-back wins.
“You see it every game,” Boudreau said. “One team controls the play. If you don’t get rewarded for it, the other team eventually is going to pick it up.”
If the Wild’s inability to bury the Predators in the first period opened the door for a Nashville revival, lapses in the first and last minutes in the middle frame completed the transformation.
Only 37 seconds into the second, winger Miikka Salomaki accepted a drop pass from center Colton Sissons after Sissons shrugged off defenseman Jonas Brodin and wired the puck by goalie Alex Stalock’s blocker. The goal came during a Wild delayed penalty.
Nashville padded its lead with 29 seconds to go in the period on another drop-pass sequence. This time, Viktor Arvidsson fed Calle Jarn- krok, who smashed a shot off the post and past Stalock.
“It was a shot that probably could have been stopped or should have been stopped,” Boudreau said. “It’s a deflator when they score in the first minute and last minute of the period.”
This outburst by the Predators was a change of pace from the first period, when the Wild (3-7) dictated play.
Winger Marcus Foligno tipped a puck off the post soon after puck drop. So did winger Luke Kunin later in the period. Defenseman Matt Dumba also hit the post, while winger Jason Zucker was stymied on a partial break into the Predators’ end.
Mikko Koivu’s attempt in the crease was also kept out.
At one point, shots swelled to 9-1 in favor of the Wild.
Give credit to Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, whose 26 saves sealed his first shutout of the season and fifth in his career against the Wild.
“It was a winnable game, and we didn’t stay with it,” Boudreau said.
Had the Wild found a way to sneak at least one puck by him in the early stages, the team wouldn’t have been forced to chase — an approach that made it vulnerable in the third.
Winger Craig Smith was left alone in front of the net to shove the puck by Stalock at 6:58 before Sissons scored shorthanded on a breakaway at 16:53.
“The first period was great, but we don’t get rewarded for anything,” Boudreau said.