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NHL Minnesota WildNashville Predators

Wild vs. Predators: An Olympian Plays a Key Role For Minnesota

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Minnesota Wild started Thursday night’s game fast with a goal from defenseman Jonas Brodin, his first since late December, less than five minutes in. The Nashville Predators answered back quickly, with a goal from center Craig Smith less than two minutes later, but Zach Parise scored a power play goal to give the Wild a 2-1 edge after one period.

Minnesota out-shot Nashville 9-3 in the second period, but they went 0-for-3 on the power play and Smith scored the only goal of the period to even the score at two.

The Wild continued to dictate the action in the third period, out-shooting the Predators 15-6, but they could not find a way to get the puck past goaltender Carter Hutton, who finished the game with 33 saves.

Regulation ended with the game still tied, but the Wild dominated the shot tally in such a fashion to that point (33-17) that they seemed destined to win. That inevitable outcome came true early in overtime, as winger Nino Niederreiter scored the game-winner just over two minutes into the extra sesssion to give Minnesota a two-game overall winning streak and a win in their fifth straight game at home. It was his second straight game with a goal after going without one since Jan.7, so the 21-year old who will play for Switzerland in Sochi will go into the Olympic break on a high note.

Niederreiter was acquired from the New York Islanders for winger Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round draft pick last June. Clutterbuck has just 11 points (seven goals, four assists) along with a negative plus-minus (-8) entering Thursday’s action, while Niederreiter now has 11 goals and 18 assists with a solid plus-minus (+11), so the trade is looking like a clear win for Minnesota. The Wild need consistent offense from players not named Parise going forward, and Niederreiter will be a key player for them in that regard as they try to hang onto a playoff spot once the Olympics are over.

Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24 or connect with him on Google +.