Philip Forsberg hit the 40-goal mark, but the Nashville Predators ultimately fell to the Minnesota Wild by a 5-4 final in overtime on Sunday night at Bridgestone Arena. The result gives the Preds 94 points to remain in the Western Conference’s first Wild Card spot but leaves them unable to clinch a playoff spot for now.
Matt Duchenne, Ryan Johanson and Dante Fabbro also tallied for the Preds, and goaltender David Rittich made 42 saves in net for Nashville on the second half of a back-to-back, but with less than two seconds to play in the overtime session, Dimitry Kulikov ended it for the visitors.
The Predators would have preferred two points on the night, but in the midst of a playoff race, one is better than none, and they’ll take the positives as the final week of the regular season continues.
“I thought there were lots of things to like tonight,” Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. “It was an emotional game – there were a lot of things that went back and forth. Either way, I just liked our mental toughness tonight and I thought we stayed with things… We’re down a goal going into the third period , and I thought we stayed with it and played the way we needed to play and came up with a big play to be able to tie the game. So, I think there’s lots from that standpoint to be able to move forward with, for sure .”
“That was a tough one,” Fabbro said. “There’s 1.3 seconds left and they score in overtime, it’s tough. But, you’ve got to look at some bright sides. We got one point out of it. We’ve kind of just got to wipe the slate clean here and start focusing on Calgary. I thought we played hard, and it’s a good team over there. It was definitely a playoff game out there.”
Minnesota got the first goal of the night midway through the first period when Nick Bjugstad converted on the power play, but with just three seconds left to play in the frame, Forsberg tapped in a loose puck on the goal line to become the second 40- goal scorer in Preds franchise history and even the score at 1-1.
Video: MIN@NSH: Forsberg puts home loose puck for his 40th
Both teams continued to trade chances in the second stanza, and after Joel Eriksson Ek put Minnesota back up by one, Duchene and Johansen recorded back-to-back power-play goals within four minutes of each other to give the Predators their first lead of the night. But then in the final two minutes of the frame, Eriksson Ek got his second of the night, and then former Preds forward Kevin Fiala put his team back up by one with just 23 seconds to play in the period.
Fabbro scored the lone goal of the final frame when he tied the game at 4-4 with less than six minutes to play in regulation, but after the two teams went back and forth in the extra session, Minnesota capitalized on their final chance.
“I still think we took a few too many penalties, but [playing physical] is our identity,” Preds forward Michael Granlund said. “We’ve got to play hard, but some easy [penalties] we’ve got to clean up. It stings losing that way, but we still got one point.”
Video: MIN@NSH: Fabbro fires a shot that ricochets into net
Now, the Preds will turn their attention to their final home game of the regular season – a Tuesday night meeting against the Calgary Flames – and Nashville will look to build off of an improved effort on Sunday with just three games to go.
“Both teams battled hard, and there was a lot of emotion in the game, a lot of special teams in the game and a lot of momentum swings, but I thought our guys really battled hard tonight,” Hynes said. “And we earned a point – we’d like to get two points, but we’ve got to take some things out of it and be ready for Calgary.”
“We don’t want to get away from what we’re trying to accomplish out there,” Fabbro said. “Identity is a big part of our team and being physical and hard to play against. So, I don’t think you can take any team lightly in this League. Every team is really good, and anyone can win on any given night. I believe if we play the right way and play to our style, that’s going to give us the best chance to win night in and night out.”
roman josi (21-70-91) became the 10th different defenseman in NHL history to record 70 assists in a season and the first since Brian Leetch (70 in 1995-96 w/ NYR).
Matt Duchenne (41-39-80 in 75 GP) and Philip Forsberg (40-40-80 in 66 GP) became the third and fourth players in Predators history to record 80 points in a campaign. They join teammate Roman Josi (21-69-90) who accomplished the feat this season and Paul Kariya (31-54-85 in 2005-06).
Eeli Tolvanen returned to the Nashville lineup on Sunday after being scratched the night before in Tampa. Defensemen Ben Harpur and Jeremy Davisas well as forward Matt Luffwere scratched against the Wild.
Nashville’s final home game of the regular season comes Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena as the Preds host the Calgary Flames in a potential first-round postseason matchup.
Video: NSH Recap: Forsberg has 3 point night in 5-4 OT loss