NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Joel Ward and Martin Erat each had a goal and assist in the first period, and the Nashville Predators beat the Minnesota Wild 4-0 on Thursday night to start a five-game homestand.

Nick Spaling scored two goals, and Pekka Rinne stopped 19 shots for his third shutout of his career against Minnesota and sixth overall this season.

David Legwand added two assists to help the Predators break out of a slump while going 3-5-2 over the last 10 games. Nashville took the season series against the Wild 3-1, winning the last three by a margin of 13-1.

Minnesota started a four-game road trip with a loss and with Mikko Koivu still out with a broken finger and forward Cal Clutterbuck (upper-body injury) scratched.

The Predators returned home from a trip having slumped out of a playoff position all the way to 10th in the West and came into the game a point behind Minnesota. Now the team that has played more road games than anyone else in the NHL gets to finish off the season on home ice with the Wild the first of 12 games in Nashville.

They certainly opened this game with a sense of urgency.

Ward scored his ninth this season at 3:13 with a snap shot from the inside edge of the left circle on a nice pass from Legwand from behind the net. Spaling scored 48 seconds later from in front off a backhand pass from Jerred Smithson as he was falling down.

Nashville took 10 of the first 11 shots, and Erat made it a 3-0 lead at 12:32 off a rebound of Ward’s shot, flipping the puck over Niklas Backstrom’s glove as he fell back into the net. The Predators missed a chance to pad the margin when Brent Burns went to the box for throwing an elbow at Spaling’s head when Sergei Kostitsyn missed the puck from the slot in the final minute.

The Wild still had Martin Havlat, who has scored more points (35) against Nashville than any other NHL team. But he didn’t take a shot through the first 40 minutes when Nashville outshot the Wild 24-9 and 31-19 overall.

Minnesota started shooting more in the third, but Spaling iced the victory with both teams skating 4-on-4 scoring from in front on a pass from captain Shea Weber at 14:59. Spaling has had two two-goal games against the Wild.

Wild Head Coach Todd Richards Postgame Comments On WCCO Radio

NOTES: The Predators improved to 31-4-1 when scoring at least three goals, 23-4-7 when scoring first and 24-2-4 when leading after two periods. … Erat came in with 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists) in the last 17 games, and he had a goal and an assist within the first 13 minutes. Legwand extended his point streak to four games (1 goal, 5 assists). … Minnesota now goes to Dallas looking to win a franchise-record 19 road wins this season. … Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner (lower body) also was scratched. … Minnesota is 8-25-2 when the opponent scores first. … Spaling has seven career goals, all at home.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  1. MNBrant says:

    These predators should never have been let out in the first place! I am going to write President Obama with my complaint!

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