Fisher’s 2 Late Goals Help Predators Stun Wild 5-4
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mike Fisher scored two of Nashville’s three goals in the last 3½ minutes and the Predators stunned the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.
Dany Heatley’s first two-goal game for Minnesota was wasted when the Wild squandered a 4-1 lead they held until the halfway mark of the third period. Brandon Yip’s first goal for Nashville since being picked up on waivers brought the Predators within two after a replay review reversed a dead-puck call on the ice.
Patric Hornqvist scored his team-leading 15th goal after taking three whacks at a loose puck at the edge of the net with David Legwand distracting goalie Josh Harding during a scrum in the crease. Fisher scored 21 seconds later.
Fisher connected again with 21 seconds remaining, flipping a seemingly harmless shot on net that slipped underneath Harding’s pads and sent a groan throughout the Xcel Energy Center crowd. Fans booed the Wild off the ice.
Matt Halischuk had a goal and an assist for the Predators, who outshot the Wild 12-7 in the final period.
Cal Clutterbuck added a goal in the second period for the Wild, Kyle Brodziak also scored and Heatley notched an assist for his second three-point game in the last three contests.
The NHL’s second-lowest scoring team broke loose for four goals against Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who had given up two or less in each of his last nine appearances. But he hung on long enough to win his 10th consecutive start.
Nashville is 13-2 since Christmas, with a 40-24 edge in even-strength scoring during that spurt. Rinne improved to 8-3-1 against the Wild in his career, despite giving up a goal 89 seconds into the second period and 16 seconds into the third. He stopped 21 shots.
Matt Cullen and Nick Johnson each had two assists for the Wild, who began the unofficial second half of the season in eighth place in the Western Conference playoff chase. The Predators were fifth.
The All-Star defenseman duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter is a good place to start when examining Nashville’s formula for success, an NHL-best run since Christmas that brought the Predators within three points of the league’s best record at the break while playing in the Central Division, arguably the NHL’s toughest. Weber and Suter have 15 goals between them this season. The Wild have eight from their entire blue line corps, including three by Marco Scandella, who is currently with their AHL affiliate.
Nashville’s defense looked as though it was still on vacation early in the game.
Johnson plucked the puck off the end boards with three Predators near him and sent a centering pass to the slot for Heatley, who shot high while Rinne ducked his head and scraped the inside of the crossbar. Later in the opening frame, Weber took a holding penalty, and Heatley scored a highlight-reel goal for the Wild’s 23rd-ranked power play.
Kevin Klein tried to glove a floating puck, couldn’t handle it and let Cullen swoop in and take control behind the goal line. Cullen sent a pass in front, and Heatley knocked it in with his stick at waist height, as if he were laying down a bunt in baseball, as he lost his balance and stumbled backward.
Heatley, who has a team-high 17 goals since coming to Minnesota in a summer trade with San Jose, has six points in his last three games.
Another boon for the Predators this season has been good health. Weber missed four games with a concussion earlier, but they don’t have anyone currently on injured reserve and none of their key players have been absent for more than a handful of games.
The Wild, meanwhile, played for the fifth straight time without captain Mikko Koivu (left shoulder) and two other top-six forwards: Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion). Latendresse is close to returning, but he has missed 33 of the last 35 games. Bouchard has been out for nine in a row and 11 games since mid-December.
NOTES: Wild D Marek Zidlicky was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. Due to make $4 million this season and next, Zidlicky has not scored in 34 games and is a minus-6. Zidlicky missed 13 games earlier this season because of a concussion. … The Predators matched their franchise record for most wins in a calendar month, finishing 11-2 in January. They were 11-5-1 in March 2010. … The Wild are 12-3-1 this season when Heatley scores. … The Predators had killed 19 of their previous 20 short-handed situations before Heatley’s goal. … The Wild fell to 16-1-3 when leading after two periods this season.
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