ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A mid-game adjustment was key to the Minnesota Wild earning two points Tuesday night.
Moved to the top line, Justin Fontaine scored late in the second period, Josh Harding stopped 16 shots for his first shutout of the season and the Wild beat the Nashville Predators 2-0.
Jason Pominville added an empty-netter for the Wild, who have scored just seven goals in the past five games while posting a 2-2-1 record.
“It’s all about wins right now, and we haven’t been winning, so tonight was a step in the right direction,” said Harding, who lowered his goals-against average to a league-best 0.96.
Pekka Rinne made 27 saves for Nashville, which failed to get a point for the first time in six games. The Predators have allowed just five goals in regulation in last four games, going 2-1-1 in that stretch.
Fontaine broke the scoreless tie at 18:53 of the second period when he charged down the slot and was able to put a rebound into the Predators’ net for his second goal of the season.
“That’s one of those situations you have to manage,” Rinne said. “You have to find a way to go to intermission 0-0.”
Fontaine didn’t start the game paired with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, but with the Minnesota offense again failing to capitalize on its many chances, coach Mike Yeo replaced Nino Niederreiter as the top line’s right wing.
“It started in practice yesterday. I’m kind of a big fan of left shot-right shot, and we’d been talking about this and talked to Mikko about it yesterday, so it was something in the back of our minds,” Yeo said. “For them to be able to attack through the neutral zone with some speed, it certainly helps if you’ve got a guy on the strong side.”
Beginning a stretch where it plays six of seven games at home, Minnesota dominated for much of the game, but continued to struggle in the offensive end.
The Wild, who entered the game averaging 30.7 shots per game, sent 13 at Rinne in the first 13 minutes, but couldn’t get anything past him. Rinne made two key stops on a penalty kill to thwart Marco Scandella and Dany Heatley and later stopped Koivu in front.
“We’ve been struggling to score goals, but if we keep throwing pucks to the net, they’re going to go in,” Fontaine said.
Rinne had to come up big because Nashville struggled to get shots at Harding. The Predators had just three first-period shots, six in the second and seven in the third.
“Our best player was our goaltender. We had too many guys that didn’t bring their ‘A’ game,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we’d be a little more even. I didn’t think we were much of a participant much of the game until the third period.”
Harding’s best save came late in the second when he stopped Eric Nystrom, who had slipped behind two Wild defensemen during a rare Nashville rush.
“I can’t take credit for this one,” Harding said. “If you watch the replays or watch the whole game over again, you can’t say enough about what the D-men did and what the forwards did. That was as sound a game as far as breaking the puck out in front of the net, blocking shots, good sticks. This isn’t me. This is for sure a team shutout.”
Minnesota played with just five defensemen much of the game after losing Jonas Brodin less than 5 minutes into the game when a dump-in by Gabriel Bourque hit Brodin in the face. Leaving blood on the ice, Brodin went straight to the Wild locker room. Yeo said Brodin was taken to the hospital for X-rays.
The Wild nearly lost another blue-liner when Scandella was hit in the leg by a slap shot from Shea Weber late in the period. Scandella struggled to the Wild bench before being helped to the locker room. However, he returned for the second period.
NOTES: Entering the game, Nashville had the league’s best faceoff win percentage at 55.8 percent; Minnesota was second at 55.7. The Predators had a 55-45 advantage in the game. … Wild D Ryan Suter played his 600th game, the first 542 with Nashville before signing a 13-year, $98 million deal with Minnesota on July 4, 2012. … Predators C Mike Fisher missed his third straight game with a lower body injury. … Wild D Keith Ballard missed his fourth straight game after being hit in the face by a puck Oct. 14.
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