Zholtok scored on a slap shot with 13.9 seconds left in the third period to pull the Wild into a 3-3 draw with the Nashville Predators on Monday night.
“I thought we deserved at least a tie, there’s no doubt,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We played good enough to be there.”
The Wild controlled the game, outshooting the Predators 39-23, but Minnesota trailed 3-2 after Vladimir Orszagh scored for Nashville midway through the third.
A last-minute flurry, however, yielded Zholtok’s goal, and an uncharacteristically intense display of offense in overtime nearly gave Minnesota a much-needed win. Zholtok had two of the team’s several prime-scoring chances in the extra session.
“It was probably our best game around the net,” Lemaire said, “which we need, because we don’t score a lot of goals.”
“Tomas played great for his first game back,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “Early on, we could have been down three or four pucks if Tomas isn’t really good.”
Scott Hartnell and Martin Erat also scored for Nashville, off to the best start in the team’s six-year history with 20 victories and 47 points. The Predators, though, are 1-5-2-1 in their last nine road games.
“We have to make the playoffs this year,” defenseman Robert Schnabel said. “We need every point we can get. We needed two, but we’ll take one.”
“I thought we played hard the whole game,” Lemaire said. “To me, what slowed us down was our power play. … It’s not too good for the morale.”
Hartnell, activated from injured reserve before the game after missing 13 games with a sprained ankle, scored midway through the first period on a pass from Andreas Johansson.
It was Johansson’s first game since sustaining a concussion against Colorado on Oct. 25.
Erat put Nashville up 2-0 later in the period on a goal that was initially waved off for a high stick, but reversed by video replay.
With 6.9 seconds remaining before the first intermission, Minnesota’s Jason Wiemer sent a perfect pass to Park from behind the net. Park, fighting for position in front of Johansson, quickly tapped the puck past Vokoun to cut the Predators’ lead to 2-1.
The Wild got a little lucky early in the third during a Nashville power play. Kuba’s clearing attempt from just in front of his own blue line bounced off the boards, ricocheted off a rut in the left circle and took a crazy bounce past Vokoun to tie it at 2.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Kuba said. “I just shot it as hard as I could.”
Just seconds away from victory, the Predators were predictably upset they couldn’t finish it off.
“We’ve been good at digging in and getting the momentum back,” Trotz said. “I thought we were in good shape right until the last 15 seconds. It was justunfortunate.”
Manny Fernandez made 20 saves for Minnesota. Fernandez, pulled in the second period of a 7-4 victory over Chicago last Wednesday, hasn’t won in six starts since Dec. 13. … Johansson completed a one-game rehabilitation assignment with Milwaukee of the AHL before being recalled Sunday. … Wild C Wes Walz missed his second straight game with a separated shoulder, but LW Pascal Dupuis returned after sitting out Friday with a sprained ankle. … These clubs meet again next Monday in Nashville. The home team lost for thefirst time in seven games in this series.