ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)The Minnesota Wild led Nashville by two with less than five minutes to go. When they lost it with 47 seconds left, captain Jared Spurgeon gave his teammates a calm word of encouragement.
Then, just like that, Spurgeon helped set up the go-ahead goal.
Ryan Hartman knocked in a rebound of Jonas Brodin’s shot with 21 seconds left, a mere 26 seconds after Nino Niederreiter tied the game for Nashville, and the Wild beat the Predators 4-3 on Sunday.
”Just looking for one opportunity,” said Spurgeon, who held a loose puck in the offensive zone before feeding Brodin. The assist moved Spurgeon past Ryan Suter for the most career points by a defenseman in Wild history.
Kirill Kaprizov scored twice and Brandon Duhaime had the first goal for Minnesota, which won – barely – in regulation for the first time in 13 games since Jan. 17.
”There was no frustration. There was no panic. There was no slamming the door. There was no breaking a stick. There was no yelling,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. ”We were just saying, ‘Well, OK, here we go.”’
Tommy Novak and Roman Josi each scored for Nashville and assisted on Niederreiter’s goal, but Filip Gustavsson – who stopped 23 shots – still managed to improve to 9-1-1 in his last 11 home starts despite the late lapse.
Josi scored with 4:56 remaining to pull the Predators within 3-2. Novak also got them within one goal by scoring late in the second period.
Kaprizov reignited the crowd at the 1:23 mark of the third period when he tracked down an outlet pass from Hartman to start a breakaway and snapped a shot past the glove of Juuse Saros.
Kaprizov, who scored earlier on a power-play rebound after Joel Eriksson Ek redirected a slap shot by Mats Zuccarello, is eighth in the NHL with 33 goals. He had a game-high six shots on goal.
”Obviously it kind of gives everyone confidence so that – not just me – everyone can start scoring, the team starts playing better, and more wins will come,” Kaprizov said through his Russian translator. ”Live and see what happens.”
The Wild sharpened up their game this week after an ominous stretch when they lost six of eight without any regulation wins. After backstopping a 2-1 shootout win over Central Division leader Dallas on Friday, Gustavsson got the call over veteran Marc-Andre Fleury for his fifth start in seven games. The 24-year-old is 13-4-1 in his last 18 turns.
The Predators badly needed this win for a boost in the Western Conference wild card race, now trailing the Wild (30-21-5) by seven points for the last spot with Calgary in between.
”Every game is so huge, especially a division game like tonight,” Niederreiter said. ”It’s tough to find words for tonight. Just frustrating we didn’t get it done.”
The Predators played at home the day before, posting a 7-3 win over Florida, and they were sluggish after the short turnaround. After Kaprizov was called for hooking to trigger a power play in the first period, they yielded two different short-handed breakaways to the Wild.
Saros saved them with a pair of pad saves to deny Eriksson Ek and later Connor Dewar. Mason Shaw’s one-timed rebound of Dewar’s shot on that second breakaway was blocked in traffic.
The Wild’s reward came just 9 seconds into the second period. Frederick Gaudreau’s shot was deflected by a screening Duhaime, sending the puck scraping across the shoulder of Saros and into the net. That tied a Wild record for the fastest goal in a second period in team history.
Novak, one of two Predators playing in their native city of St. Paul along with defenseman Ryan McDonagh, had two goals for Nashville on Saturday. … Niederreiter got a double minor in the third period for a high stick that drew blood on Brodin, his former teammate. … Saros made 31 saves. … Hartman’s goal was the third-latest go-ahead goal in Wild history. Marcus Foligno has the record with 8 seconds left on Oct. 15, 2021.
Predators: Host Vancouver on Tuesday, their first of two home games in an 11-game, 23-day stretch.
Wild: Host Los Angeles on Tuesday to wrap up a seven-game homestand.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports