NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild have been playing very well since trading for Devan Dubnyk in January. Winning in the toughest building this season in the NHL has given them another nice confidence boost.
Nino Niederreiter scored two goals, and the Wild beat Nashville 4-2 Thursday night, handing the Predators only their fourth regulation loss on home ice this season.
“I do feel that we deserved to win tonight,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We did a lot of good things. I thought the play of our defensemen was outstanding all night and to have any kind of success against that team the way that they play, you’re going to need that.”
Dubnyk made 27 saves as he improved to 14-3-2 since being acquired by Minnesota in mid-January. With the win, the Wild moved back into the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Erik Haula and Kyle Brodziak also scored for Minnesota.
“I heard that their record is pretty remarkable at home and we know they’re a great team,” Haula said. “We knew that we needed to play a good team game and needed good goaltending. I feel like we were able to do that.”
Mike Fisher had a goal and an assist, Craig Smith had a goal and Matt Cullen added two assists for Nashville. The Predators snapped a six-game winning streak and now are 26-4-1 at home this season.
“We know they were desperate tonight and that they were going to come out with a good effort, and we weren’t good enough,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “We got what we deserved.”
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette pulled goalie Pekka Rinne with 3:00 left, but Niederreiter sealed the win with an empty netter with 1:39 remaining for his 21st goal this season.
Minnesota also had left wing Sean Bergenheim on the ice for the first time since trading for the veteran Tuesday. He skated with Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek. The Predators got defenseman Ryan Ellis back after missing 21 games with a lower-body injury.
The Wild have gotten points in 14 of their last 19 games, and only Nashville came into Thursday night with more points since the All-Star break than Minnesota — with the Predators playing two more games. This game had plenty of intensity in what might have been a playoff preview.
“Yeah, for sure it would definitely be a great playoff series, but we can’t think that way yet,” Niederreiter said. “We’re still in a tough race to get there and then we have to take it game by game.”
Fans took every chance to boo former Predators defenseman Ryan Suter when he touched the puck. But Haula, playing in his 100th NHL game, gave Minnesota 1-0 lead late in the first period with a slap shot from the blue line. It’s the 14th time in 19 games Minnesota has scored first.
The Predators tied it 16 seconds into the second as Cullen found Fisher in the slot for a slap shot, his 14th this season. Rinne got help from the crossbar on a shot from Wild forward Justin Fontaine minutes later, and the goalie covered up the puck.
Brodziak put the Wild back up in the second with a slap shot off a face-off from the left circle. That lead didn’t last long.
Smith got the puck in the neutral zone for a breakaway and beat Dubnyk with a wrister 1:19 later for his 20th goal. Then Niederreiter capped a 3-on-2 with a wrister over Rinne at 9:48 as Minnesota took a 3-2 lead in a wild sequence.
The Predators had two-man advantages and couldn’t beat Dubnyk. The Wild now have killed 36 of their last 37 penalties.
NOTES: Fans gave former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun a standing ovation in the first period, and he was presented a portrait. He is playing for Nashville against Detroit in an alumni game Saturday. … Cullen’s first assist was the 400th of his career. … Predators forward Gabriel Bourque played in his 200th career game. … Nashville is 4-12-2 when trailing after two periods.
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