NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Alexander Radulov is providing the offense the Nashville Predators dreamed of during the four years he spent playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
Radulov scored the lone goal in the shootout, and the Predators edged the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Tuesday night to reach 100 points for the second time in three seasons and fourth in seven. Radulov has six points in seven games since rejoining Nashville.
“Rad really converted,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I saw his move on the replay, and that’s hard because you’re coming in and he changes direction. That elevation so quickly is almost impossible to stop.”
The Predators, who have two games left, moved back into fourth place in the Western Conference — one point over idle Detroit and two over Chicago. Detroit will finish the regular season on Saturday in Chicago.
“The win is the most important thing,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “Obviously, we’re somewhat in control of where we can finish. We can guarantee ourselves fifth. We’ve got to keep going.”
Backup goalie Anders Lindback started over Pekka Rinne, who was a healthy scratch to rest for the playoffs. Lindback stopped all three attempts in his first career shootout and 25 shots overall for his fourth win this season.
Lindback noted he had won one preseason shootout.
“I only had to make two saves there, and Rads threw down one. It was good,” Lindback said.
The Predators recalled Chet Pickard from Milwaukee of the AHL to make sure that Rinne, the NHL leader in games played and wins, got the night off. Gabriel Bourque also scored for Nashville, which took the season series 3-1 and won for the second time in three games overall.
Dany Heatley had the lone goal for Minnesota. The Wild came in 12th in the Western Conference. But Minnesota, a team that should be jockeying for draft position, had won three straight and five of eight. The Wild also beat Chicago 5-4 in a shootout on Sunday.
Nashville lost to Chicago 5-4 on Saturday night, slipping out of fourth with its sixth loss in 10 games.
Lindback stopped Heatley late in regulation from in front, and the Predators killed a power play that stretched 1:49 into overtime. Lindback stopped a one-timer from Mikko Koivu and swatted away a shot by Cal Clutterbuck at the end of the advantage.
Radulov had waved his hand, calling for the puck, in the final seconds of overtime and never got the pass. Lindback, the NHL’s tallest goalie at 6-foot-6, stopped Erik Christensen, Koivu and Devin Setoguchi in the shootout. Niklas Backstrom denied Martin Erat with a pad save, but Radulov slipped the puck past the goalie for the winning goal on his attempt.
“He’s an exciting player,” Weber said of Radulov. “He lives and thrives on those types of situations. The other night, that was a goal scorer’s goal, and tonight he was just patient and found a hole to slip through.”
Backstrom wasn’t happy with himself.
“I have to be better on that and try to make the save for the guys,” he said.
It was a fitting end to a night in which both teams struggled with bouncing pucks on ice not helped by a warm spring in Nashville. Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said his players had trouble, and he heard some of the Predators also complained after the morning skate.
“It’s hot out right now, but you’ve got to overcome that stuff,” Yeo said.
The Predators thought they had scored in the second when Nick Spaling passed the puck behind a drawn-out Backstrom, and Patric Hornqvist tried to knock it in. But Wild defenseman Marco Scandella went low, trying to protect the net, in what turned into a bit of a scrum. Wild forward Nick Johnson went into the net and let go of his stick to grab at something.
Officials reviewed the play for several minutes before announcing no goal.
Bourque put Nashville ahead 1-0 when Spaling took the puck away from Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner in the circle and sent a pass to Bourque, who scored his seventh this season on a wrister at 12:31 of the second.
Heatley tied it at 17:53 after Koivu corralled a puck that had just bounced off the crossbar and gave a pass to Nate Prosser. He slapped the puck toward the net, and Heatley tipped it under Lindback’s glove hand for his 23rd.
Notes: The Predators improved to 5-5 in shootouts this season. … Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter went to the box in the first period for cross-checking Setoguchi. It was Suter’s first penalty since Feb. 2 at Philadelphia. … Heatley scored his fifth goal this season against Nashville, and he has 23 career points (13 goals, 10 assists) against the Predators. … Bourque has seven points in nine games (4 goals, 3 assists). … Nashville announced its seventh straight sellout for the franchise’s 24th this season.
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