NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 28: Colin Wilson #33 of the Nashville Predators scores the game winning shootout goal against Josh Harding #37 of the Minnesota Wild at the Bridgestone Arena on December 28, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
A goaltending duel between two of the best netminders in the NHL this season would need extra time and a shootout, but the Predators would find themselves victorious after the Wild failed to capitalize on their opportunities.
When two of the best goaltenders in the NHL meet, it is natural to expect a low scoring game, and Pekka Rinne and Josh Harding did not disappoint in the latest matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators.
For 47 minutes, both goaltenders had answers for every opportunity they faced, and the most interesting story of the game was Wild callup Jon DiSalvatore playing in his first NHL game since the 2005-2006 season. Minnesota found itself in some penalty trouble during the second period, but Nashville was unable to capitalize as the No. 2 ranked power play felt the lack of sidelined captain Shea Weber. Despite spending almost a third of the period on the penalty kill, the Wild fought for space with the puck, neutralized the Predators' attack, and doubled up Nashville in shots by 11 to five.
Minnesota's momentum seemed likely to cause a breakthrough in the third period as the Wild continued to force turnovers and pressure Rinne. But the game would turn on a long shot from the blue line by Jonathan Blum that Jordin Tootoo would redirect past Harding from in front of the crease.
The Predators appeared content with the slim lead and set themselves to the task of grinding out the remaining time in regulation, but Minnesota would not go away so easily. Forcing their way through the Predators' defense, the Wild continued to look for opportunities, finally tying the game when Dany Heatley found the rebound from a Nate Prosser shot at the side of the net and quickly darted behind the goal for a wrap around attempt that slipped past Rinne's outstretched leg with just under four minutes left in the third period
The goal would give the Wild new energy, and an ill-timed unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from Tootoo appeared to hand them an opportunity to take control of the game. But the Nashville penalty kill stiffened in response, finally drawing an equalizing penalty on DiSalvatore late in the Tootoo minor.
With neither side able to capitalize before the end of regulation, the game went into extra time. The Wild seemed to carry the momentum for the five minute OT, but could not find a way to beat Pekka Rinne, leading to a shootout.
With the Wild 4-3 in shootouts this season, including two victories on the road, they seemed to have an edge over Nashville's 1-1 record, but Mike Yeo's chosen shooters seemed to have major issues controlling the puck on their attempts. Opening the contest with Matt Cullen, the veteran forward lost the puck midway through his attempt, while Colin Wilson scored on a perfect backhand move. Mikko Koivu would attempt a similar shot on Rinne, but the Finnish netminder made a glove save on his countryman, and Harding would stop Craig Smith to keep the Wild alive.
With the game on his stick, Pierre-Marc Bouchard went wide on Rinne and attempted a spin move, but the center appeared to trip over his own stick and lose the puck at the side of the net, sealing the Nashville win.