Even when they win, the Minnesota Wild are struggling to string together 60 full minutes of solid hockey.
After pulling out a come-from-behind victory, the Wild look for a more complete effort when they visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.
Minnesota (13-7-1) dropped three of five games on its just-completed homestand. The homestand appeared to be headed for four losses in five games, before the Wild rallied for three third-period goals and a 4-2 victory over Tampa Bay in Friday’s finale.
It was the first win of the season when trailing after 40 minutes for the Wild, who’d had problems down the stretch in their previous two games. They beat Washington on Monday despite yielding three goals in the third, and wasted a two-goal lead in the last 20 minutes of a loss to Dallas on Wednesday.
“We didn’t play bad in the first or second periods, but we played kind of similar to the way we’ve been playing in the third lately - just kind of hanging in there, not taking control and making stuff happen,” winger Antti Miettinen, who had two assists in Friday’s victory, told the Wild’s official Web site.
James Sheppard had a goal and an assist while Marc-Andre Bergeron had two assists for the Wild, who continue to struggle to replace star forward Marian Gaborik. The team’s leading scorer with 42 goals and 83 points in 2007-08, Gaborik remains out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
Fortunately for the Wild, they haven’t needed much offense in front of hot goalie Niklas Backstrom, who has helped them hold opponents to a Western Conference-low 45 goals. He made 35 saves Friday, improving to 13-6-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average while starting all but one of Minnesota’s games.
Backstrom has been even better versus the Predators, compiling a 2.58 GAA and a .922 save percentage in winning all five of his career appearances against them.
Should he start Saturday, he’ll face a Nashville team that Minnesota defeated eight three times in four meetings last season.
Nashville (11-9-2) has won two of its last three games overall, including a 4-3 overtime victory at Atlanta on Friday. Jason Arnott scored his team-leading 11th goal in regulation, before defenseman Ryan Suter scored the game-winner on a breakaway 1:44 into the extra session.
“Big win. Big goal by Suter,” said Rinne, who played in place of Dan Ellis, resting after starting eight consecutive games.
Ellis went 4-2-1 with a 2.38 GAA and a .924 save percentage in those eight starts. He’s allowed four goals on 61 shots while splitting two career starts against the Wild. Rinne has never faced Minnesota.