On Sunday, the Predators closed the season with a 7-3 win over
the Minnesota Wild and have been one of the NHL's hottest teams of
late, going 9-1-2 in their final dozen games.
Trailing 3-1 in the second period, the Predators got goals from a
trio defensemen — Ryan Ellis, Shea Weber and Roman Josi — in a
two-minute span. Goalie Carter Hutton had 27 saves for the
Predators, who also got a pair of goals from center Craig Smith and
single goals from left wing Rich Clune and center Calle Jarnkrok.
"We have a lot of character; there's no quit," said Weber. "We
talked two or three weeks ago that it would be a tough shot to get
in the playoffs, but we were going to play loose and make sure we're
giving everything we have, and obviously we played well coming down
Right winger Jason Pominville had a goal and two assists for the
Wild (23-27-12), who started goalie Illya Bryzgalov, but lifted him
after two periods of their final tune-up before the playoffs begin.
Bryzgalov had 16 saves on 21 Nashville shots and was replaced by
John Curry, who finished with 10 saves. Left wingers Erik Haula and
Zach Parise also scored for Minnesota, which is heading to the
postseason for the fifth time in team history. Wild players said the
best thing that happened Sunday was no new injuries were recorded.
"You always have in the back of your mind you don't want to get
hurt, you don't want to take one off the ankle and who knows what
happens," said Pominville, who reached the 30-goal mark for the
third time in his career. "So sometimes it leads to those results
and obviously it wasn't pretty. It wasn't the way we want to end it
and I don't want to make an excuse for it, but I think those things
when happen when you're in and the other team is out, playing
Minnesota led 2-0 on goals by Haula and Pominville when Bryzgalov
tried to play a puck and stumbled, leaving the net open and leading
to Clune's tap-in goal. After Parise's power-play goal early in the
second gave the Wild a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead, Nashville
scored the next six goals unanswered.
"We played the same way no matter what the circumstances, score,
time of game, we're playing the same way all the way to the end,"
said Smith, who had his fifth multi-goal game of the season. "It's
how the guys in this group play. We stuck with it. You always want
to go out on a good note."
The Predators finish the season 38-32-12 and the departure of Trotz — the only coach Nashville has had since the franchise entered the
NHL in 1998 — has been widely rumored. They finished the season
with 14 goals in their final two games. Hutton improved to 20-11-4
[to top of second column]
"We'll see what happens, but it's fine," Trotz said. "I've been
actually very blessed, from my standpoint. When I first came there,
I thought I just wanted to make it through the first season and I've
been there 17 years. So whatever happens, I've been pretty blessed.
There's no sour grapes here if things change. It's hockey, and
Nashville's pretty cool now."
For Minnesota, it was the first regulation loss for Bryzgalov, who
is now 7-1-3 since joining the Wild in early March via a trade with
Edmonton. It was also the first time he's been lifted by Wild coach
Mike Yeo during a game.
"Let's face it: We weren't playing too well in front of him. So I'm
not worried about him," said Yeo, who has had four goalies start 10
or more games this season.
NOTES: Wild C Kyle Brodziak had his first two-goal game of the
season on Thursday, but was scratched Sunday due to an undisclosed
injury. It snapped a streak of 231 consecutive games played by
Brodziak. ... Predators D Michael Del Zotto's season came to a quiet
end on Sunday as he was a healthy scratch for the fourth time in
Nashville's past five games. Del Zotto, who came to the Preds in a
January trade with the New York Rangers, finished the season with
just one goal in 25 games for Nashville. ... The Wild will open
their second consecutive trip to the playoffs on Thursday in Denver.
It will be the third time the Wild and Colorado Avalanche have met
in the first round of the playoffs. In 2003, the Wild upset Colorado
in seven games. In 2008, the Wild won the Northwest Division but
were upset by the Avalanche in six games. ... After making it to the
postseason in seven of eight previous seasons, the Predators will be
out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.