ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — After a Stanley Cup Final appearance two years ago and the NHL’s best regular-season record in 2017-18, the Nashville Predators haven’t enjoyed the same vibe.
There’s still plenty of time to get it back, though, and this victory at Minnesota was an encouraging sign.
Ryan Johansen scored in the fourth round of the shootout on Sunday night to give the Predators a 3-2 victory and stop the Wild’s winning streak at five games.
“A step in the right direction,” Johansen said. “Some more adversity today on the road and just finding a way to win. We’re going to build off that.”
Filip Forsberg had the tying goal with 4:19 remaining in regulation and backup goalie Juuse Saros won for the first time in four starts for the Predators, who owned a 17-3 shots advantage after the second intermission against a Wild team returned from a 4-2 win at Pacific Division leader Calgary on Saturday night.
Eric Fehr and Jason Zucker scored late in the second period less than 3 minutes apart for the Wild, who still moved into a tie with Dallas for the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Stars have played one fewer game.
“We all expected to win that game no matter what the travel is, especially if we played our game,” Zucker said. “I thought we played pretty well.”
Six days after he was traded to the Predators for fellow wing Kevin Fiala, Mikael Granlund faced off against his former team and was honored during a first-period break with a tribute video and an extended cheer from the crowd.
There could hardly have been a player on the ice with more emotion for this game than Granlund, the slick stick-handler and special-teams standout who was informed of the deal by Wild general manager Paul Fenton after his fiancée had started labor. Granlund turned 27 and became a father the following day. He debuted with his new team with one assist at Winnipeg on Friday.
Granlund, who skated with Kyle Turris and Craig Smith on the second line, was acquired in part to help jump-start a power play that entered the evening with the second-worst conversion rate (12.5 percent) in the NHL. The Predators went 0 for 2.
“It’s been fun to play games,” Granlund said. “Hopefully I’m going to find my rhythm and systems and everything so I don’t need to go out there and think.”
With first-liners Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, Turris and star defenseman P.K. Subban all having missed significant time earlier in the season, the Predators, who are just 5-6-1 in their last 12 games, have had to work a lot harder to stay among the Western Conference leaders than in the last two seasons. They trail Winnipeg by one point in the Central Division, but they’ve played three more games than the Jets.
“We need to start pushing our collection,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “I really liked the resiliency of our group.”
Wayne Simmonds posted his first point for the Predators since he was acquired in a trade hours after Granlund, setting up Nick Bonino’s first goal in 16 games since Jan. 23. The Wild picked up the pace, and Fehr scored on a breakaway with 3:25 remaining before the second intermission after blocking Rocco Grimaldi’s shot. Zucker, with 38 seconds left, deposited his third goal in the last four games .
Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 41 saves, after allowing 11 goals on 69 shots over his three previous starts, all losses. That included an early hook against Anaheim on Jan. 17, when he gave up three goals in 7:58.
In the shootout, Johansen slowed to a near-stop in front of the crease and used a rope-a-dope move to set up a backhander. Stalock unsuccessfully argued that Johansen pushed his pad into the net with the puck.
“They don’t want to be thought of as the team that didn’t make it,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re giving it everything that they have.”
NOTES: Recently retired skier Lindsey Vonn , the all-time women’s leader with 82 World Cup wins who grew up in Minnesota, performed a ceremonial puck drop . Grinning widely as she walked off the ice, Vonn playfully waved her arms at Nashville’s bench where her boyfriend, Subban, was sitting. … Zach Parise, who had the only shootout goal for the Wild, returned from a one-game absence to a lower-body injury as Matt Read, who scored against the Flames, was sent back to the AHL. … Smith returned from a six-game absence due to a lower-body injury. Bonino moved over to center to fill the spot vacated by Brian Boyle, who was out with a lower-body injury. … Eric Staal stretched his season-high points streak to six straight games. … Fiala is the fourth former Predators player acquired for the Wild by Fenton since the season began, joining right wing Pontus Aberg and defensemen Anthony Bitetto and Brad Hunt.
Predators: After returning home to face the Wild again on Tuesday, they host Carolina on Saturday.
Wild: After the rematch with the Predators in two nights, they stay on the road and play at Tampa Bay on Thursday.
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