The Nashville Predators edged the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in a shootout in front of a sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena. The game was the 7th consecutive sellout and the 24th of the season. The Wild had won three straight games all against teams that are trying to improve their playoff seeding.
With the win, Nashville regains fourth spot in the Western Conference standings with 100 points, one point ahead of Detroit. The Red Wings, however, have one in game in hand over Nashville. Detroit plays the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday while the Predators are idle.
After a scoreless first period, the Predators and Wild exchanged goals in the middle frame. Gabriel Bourque picked up his seventh goal of the season at 12:31 into the second period when his wrist shot beat Niklas Backstrom on a pass from across the crease by Nick Spaling who stole the puck from Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner.
Bourque has posted seven points in his last nine contests, including 4 goals and 3 assists. On the season, the winger has 7 goals and 11 assists in 41 games.
Finding chemistry on the ice with Spaling has not been a problem for Bourque who says he and Spaling are becoming better familiarized with each other as of late.
“We both play really hard, and we play the same way. We’ve played some games together so we have started to know each other. The goal was a great forecheck by Spaling and it was a nice pass. I had a wide open net. You can’t ask for better than that,” Bourque said.
Patric Hornqvist completed the line.
“They make it real easy,” Spaling said. “They’re two energy guys that I know that they’re going to be at the net or trying to win the puck back in the corner. It makes it easy for me knowing where they are the whole time.”
Predators head coach Barry Trotz thought that the Spaling line was Nashville’s best line of the night.
“When Nick Spaling is playing that hard, in your face game, and you add a Gabriel Bourque, everybody knows how hard [Hornqvist] is, as a line, they can really make it tough on you. That’s a really good line in terms of coming at you. They’re not going to back off anybody. When they’re all in playing that way, it’s a good thing. They were our best line tonight,” he said.
After playing his first game on December 28th against the Wild, Bourque has only been scratched three times. Having played in 41 contests, Bourque’s position in the lineup is all but secured. Now that Bourque has beat out other regular members of the Nashville lineup, he has no intention of giving the spot back.
“The first game here I was nervous,” Bourque said. “I just wanted to play my first NHL game and do well. Now we are heading into the playoffs and I just want to keep my spot in the lineup and play every game to help the team.”
Minnesota answered a little over 5 minutes later with 2:07 remaining in the period when Dany Heatley picked up his 23rd goal of the season when he deflected Nate Prosser’s shot from the point by Nashville netminder Anders Lindback. In 16 career games against the Predators Heatley has 13 goals and 10 assists for 23 points. This season, Heatley has 5 goals and 1 assist against the Predators in four games.
There were no goals in the third period. Alexander Radulov scored the only goal in the shootout. Lindback stopped shootout attempts from Erik Christensen, Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi to win his first ever regular-season shootout.
Pekka Rinne did not dress on Tuesday night. Josh Cooper from The Tennessean tweeted that the netminder was out sick. Other scratches for Nashville included Jordin Tootoo, Brian McGrattan, Matt Halischuk, Colin Wilson, Jack Hillen, Ryan Ellis and Jack Maclellan.
Nashville wraps up the home portion of the regular season on Thursday night when the Dallas Stars visit the Predators. The regular season ends on Saturday. All 30 teams will be in action. Nashville visits Colorado. The 2012 NHL playoffs begin on April 11th.