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Nashville at Minnesota

Wild eliminated from playoff contention despite eight-goal burst

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jacques Lemaire watched his Minnesota Wild deliver "one of the best games we've played all year" in the most crucial of moments.

He soaked in the roar of the home crowd approving of an inspiring performance, and couldn't help but think of what might have been.

Marc-Andre Bergeron scored twice and Minnesota set a season high for goals Friday night in an 8-4 victory over the Nashville Predators, but the Wild were eliminated from playoff contention a few hours later when Anaheim advanced to overtime against Dallas en route to a shootout victory. Nashville dropped out when St. Louis beat Columbus.

"I wish we would have had more games like this," Lemaire said after what might have been his last home game as coach of the Wild. "Then we wouldn't be in the situation that we are in right now."

Lemaire said after the game he has made a decision about his future, but was not ready to announce if he would return for a 10th season as Wild coach.

Andrew Brunette, Kim Johnsson, Dan Fritsche, Mikko Koivu, Cal Clutterbuck and Marek Zidlicky also scored for the Wild, who will finish the season Saturday night at Columbus.

Jason Arnott scored twice, and Shea Weber and Steve Sullivan also scored for Nashville.

"This group never gave up," coach Barry Trotz said. "They can walk out of here proud. Obviously we didn't get the result we wanted tonight."

Marian Gaborik and James Sheppard each had two assists for Minnesota, which went 3-for-3 on the power play and got 31 saves from Niklas Backstrom.

"Tonight was special," Lemaire said. "Behind the bench, I don't know how many times I thought that the guys are playing with their heart, and you can tell. And having the fans appreciate that, it was great."

After a slow start to the game, the Wild played with the intensity and desperation of a team that simply cannot afford another loss.

Arnott opened the scoring with a shot from the slot for his 32nd goal of the season. That broke the previous record set by Sullivan and Paul Kariya in 2005-06.

The Wild tied it up despite vehement protests from Nashville coach Barry Trotz. With just over seven minutes to play in the first period, the Predators were on the attack when the officials called a delayed penalty. As the puck trickled through the slot, Nashville winger Joel Ward appeared to touch it up, which would have stopped play.

But the officials did not blow the whistle and Fritsche grabbed the loose puck along the boards near the blue line and raced the other way. His shot rolled up and over Rinne's right blocker and into the net to tie the game.

Trotz was livid, waving his arms and yelling at any official within shouting distance, but it did no good.

The goal completely changed the momentum of the game, and possibly Nashville's season.

"An unforgettable break, that's for sure," Nashville center Vernon Fiddler said. "It could cost us the year. We had touched the puck a few times before that where they hadn't blown it down."

The Wild took the lead just before the period ended after a monster shift from Gaborik, Sheppard and Brunette, who held the puck in the Nashville zone for nearly a minute. The shift ended with Radek Bonk taking a holding penalty.

Brunette cleaned up a rebound for a power-play goal and a 2-1 lead.

Fritsche had a hand in the third goal as well, absorbing a high hit from Jordin Tootoo to push the puck up ice to Colton Gillies, who threw a cross-ice pass to Bergeron. The defenseman skated in on Rinne's right and beat him through the five-hole for a 3-1 lead less than five minutes into the second period.

Fritsche had to be helped off the ice with a chest injury and did not return, and 6-foot-8, 258-pound defenseman John Scott spent much of the rest of the night stalking the 5-9, 200-pound Tootoo around the rink.

The Predators twice cut the deficit to two goals in the final period, and Trotz was so desperate for a victory that he kept Rinne out of the net for nearly all of the last two minutes. Koivu scored a short-hander and Clutterbuck and Zidlicky added empty-netters to seal it.

"We would have liked to play like this the whole year," Backstrom said. "I hope we still have a chance tomorrow morning."

Notes

  • The Wild announced the winner of the Minnesota Hockey Greats contest. The 1966 International Falls High team was voted the greatest high school hockey team in state history. Roseau forward Neal Broten, who went on to star at the University of Minnesota, for the 1980 Olympic team and in the NHL, was selected the state's best player ever. Fans voted on the awards during the season.
  • Only in the NHL: A linesman had to pause the game for a few seconds to pick up two teeth from the mouth of Brunette after he was hit in the face with a puck in the second period.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Andrew Brunette, who has two teeth knocked out by a puck, is one of seven scorers for the Wild. (AP)
Andrew Brunette, who has two teeth knocked out by a puck, is one of seven scorers for the Wild. (AP)
Related Links
 
Scoreboard
Nashville (40-34-8)1124
Minnesota  (39-33-9) «2338
Three Stars
K. Johnsson
MIN


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
D. Fritsche
MIN


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
M. Bergeron
MIN


Goals: 2
Assist(s): 0
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
07:18Jason Arnott (32), Snap Shot. Assist: Sullivan
12:58Dan Fritsche (5), Wrist Shot, Unassisted.
19:33Power Play - Andrew Brunette (22), Wrist Shot. Assist: Sheppard, Foster
2ND PERIOD
04:47Marc-Andre Bergeron (11), Wrist Shot. Assist: Gillies, Fritsche
15:56Power Play - Kim Johnsson (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Sheppard, Gaborik
16:14Jason Arnott (33), Wrist Shot. Assist: Hamhuis, Dumont
18:09Power Play - Marc-Andre Bergeron (12), Snap Shot. Assist: Gaborik, Olvecky
3RD PERIOD
10:47Power Play - Shea Weber (23), Slap Shot. Assist: Dumont, Sullivan
11:06Short - Mikko Koivu (20), Tip-In, Unassisted.
14:21Steve Sullivan (11), Wrist Shot. Assist: Weber
18:31Cal Clutterbuck (11), Empty Net. Assist: Veilleux, Foster
19:43Marek Zidlicky (12), Empty Net. Assist: Koivu
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
18:32Bonk, 2 min, Holding
2ND PERIOD
02:00Johnsson, 2 min, Holding
09:14Foster, 2 min, Slashing
13:59Hamhuis, 2 min, Interference
17:58Tootoo, 2 min, High-Sticking
3RD PERIOD
02:41Dumont, 2 min, Hooking
05:58Hamhuis, 2 min, High-Sticking
09:27Olvecky, 2 min, Interference
09:53Belanger, 2 min, Slashing
13:36Gillies, 2 min, Roughing
13:36Jones, 2 min, Roughing
Shots On Goal
 123T
Nashville11121235
Minnesota1613837
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Pekka Rinne59:03296
Niklas Backstrom59:46314
Game Information
Attendance - 18568
Referees - Dan O'Halloran, Justin St. Pierre
Linesmen - Thor Nelson, Don Henderson
 
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StL 3
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Ana 4
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