The players that the Nashville Predators were planning on being the big guns before the season came up big in the Predators 2-0 shutout of the Wild Friday night in Minnesota. Dan Ellis, Jason Arnott and David Legwand provided the keys to the Preds fourth win in a row, the longest win streak in almost two years.
Dan Ellis, making his first start in over three weeks shut down the Wild offense stopping all 22 shots. Ellis was strongest near the end of the game when he stopped several point blank shots including one off the stick of Cal Clutterbuck with four minutes left where Ellis guessed right in a 2 on 1 situation. It was Ellis’s third shutout of the season bringing the team total to seven, which is tied for the league lead.
Ellis was slated to be the number one goalie this year but recently lost that title to Pekka Rinne who has started the last six games. Had it not been for a grueling February schedule Eliis would have been back on the pine against the Wild.
Team Captain, Jason Arnott, scored the game-winning goal at 12:15 in the second period taking a pass from J P Dumont from behind the net and burying it behind Wild Goalie Niklas Backstrom. That was all the Preds needed for the win. Arnott now has four goals in the six games since the all-star break including goals in the last three contests.
David Legwand provided an insurance goal for the Predators one minute into the third on a shot set up by Antti Philstrom. Minnesota looked like a team desperate for goals from that point forward.
The Predators defense picked up where it left off Thursday against the Ducks, playing a trapping, hard skating style that got in the way of any offensive efforts that the Wild attempted to generate. The Preds held the Wild to just four shots in the first period and six in the second before the Wild were able to fire 12 shots in the final stanza.
As we have seen in the prior two games, both played without Jordan Tootoo and Wade Belak, the opponent was very chippy, trying to play a physical game that the Predators couldn’t match. The Preds held their own with Shea Weber leading the team with five hits including a couple of big blows seconds apart midway through the game to show that the Predators wouldn’t go quietly.
A key point in the game was when the Preds incurred penalties 24 seconds apart at the mid point of the second period presenting the Wild with 1:36 of a five on three advantage. The Preds penalty kill unit, ranked sixth in the NHL overall, has had problems in two man advantage situations having given up nine goals, ranking in a tie for last in the league. Tonight they were able to hold firm and keep the puck out of the net allowing only four shots in four PK situations.
The win gave the Predators 53 points and for the moment, moved them within two points of the last playoff position.
The Predators continue on the short road trip traveling to Dallas to face the surging Dallas Stars on Sunday in a 5:00 start time before returning home to face the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night.
This continues to be the “fathers weekend” trip where the player’s dads travel with the team. FS Tennessee did a really nice interview piece with the players and their dads giving their recollections of each player’s first NHL game. Hopefully, the dads will continue to bring the team good luck in Dallas on Sunday.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass