Associated Press, Published October 22 2013
Harding, Wild shut out Predators
Moved to the top line, Justin Fontaine scored late in the second period, Josh Harding stopped 16 shots for his first shutout of the season and the Wild beat the Nashville Predators
Jason Pominville added an empty-netter for the Wild, who have scored just seven goals in the past five games while posting a 2-2-1 record.
“It’s all about wins right now, and we haven’t been winning, so tonight was a step in the right direction,” said Harding, who lowered his goals-against average to a league-best 0.96.
It was the first game for Nashville forward Matt Cullen in Minnesota since he left the Wild in free agency during the offseason. Cullen is a Moorhead High School graduate who had played the last three seasons with Minnesota.
Pekka Rinne made 27 saves for Nashville, which failed to get a point for the first time in six games. The Predators have allowed just five goals in regulation in last four games, going 2-1-1 in that stretch.
Fontaine broke the scoreless tie at 18 minutes, 53 seconds of the second period when he charged down the slot and was able to put a rebound into the Predators’ net for his second goal of the season.
“That’s one of those situations you have to manage,” Rinne said. “You have to find a way to go to intermission 0-0.”
Fontaine didn’t start the game paired with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, but with the Minnesota offense again failing to capitalize on its many chances, coach Mike Yeo replaced Nino Niederreiter as the top line’s right wing.
“It started in practice yesterday. I’m kind of a big fan of left shot-right shot, and we’d been talking about this and talked to Mikko about it yesterday, so it was something in the back of our minds,” Yeo said. “For them to be able to attack through the neutral zone with some speed, it certainly helps if you’ve got a guy on the strong side.”
Beginning a stretch where it plays six of seven games at home, Minnesota dominated for much of the game, but continued to struggle in the offensive end.
The Wild, who entered the game averaging 30.7 shots per game, sent 13 at Rinne in the first 13 minutes, but couldn’t get anything past him. Rinne made two key stops on a penalty kill to thwart Marco Scandella and Dany Heatley and later stopped Koivu in front.
“We’ve been struggling to score goals, but if we keep throwing pucks to the net, they’re going to go in,” Fontaine said.
Rinne had to come up big because Nashville struggled to get shots at Harding. The Predators had just three first-period shots, six in the second and seven in the third.
“Our best player was our goaltender. We had too many guys that didn’t bring their ‘A’ game,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we’d be a little more even. I didn’t think we were much of a participant much of the game until the third period.”
Nashville 0 0 0 – 0
Minnesota 0 1 1 – 2
Second period: 1, Minnesota, Fontaine 2 (Stoner, Parise), 18:53.
Third period: 2, Minnesota, Pominville 4 (Koivu, Parise), 19:35 (en).
Shots on Goal – Nashville 3-6-7 – 16. Minnesota 13-11-5 – 29.
Goalies: Nashville, Rinne. Minnesota, Harding. A – 17,651 (17,954). T – 2:24.