Hartman’s last-minute goal lifts Wild past Predators 4-3

Ryan Hartman hasn't shot a puck into the net recently, but he has still delivered timely goals for the Wild.

Barely a week after a wind-up from Matt Dumba clipped him en route to the net for the equalizer in the team's slump-busting victory over the Devils, Hartman chest-bumped in a last-minute tally to turn a late-game meltdown by the Wild into a 4-3 victory over the Predators in front of an announced 19,255 at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday that held plenty of significance.

"He doesn't even need a stick right now," captain Jared Spurgeon said.

The Wild blew a two-goal advantage in the third period, with former Wild forward Nino Niederreiter's deflection at 19 minutes, 13 seconds making a fourth extra-time ending in five games a real possibility for the home team.

Then Hartman flipped the script by once again skating to the front of the net.

There, a Jonas Brodin shot smacked Hartman near the right shoulder before falling behind Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros (31 saves) only 26 seconds after Niederreiter scored. With 21 seconds to go in the third period, the goal rang up as the third latest go-ahead goal in Wild history.

"I'm trying to get in front more," said Hartman, whose left arm is still bandaged where the Dumba shot hit him Feb. 11 vs. New Jersey, the cut on the inside of his elbow requiring four stitches. "But pucks just have been hitting the goalie and going in the corner and nothing's been sitting there for me like they should. But ended up working."

This was the Wild's first regulation victory in 13 games, since Jan. 17 at Washington; that was also the last time they racked up four goals and buried three at 5-on-5. Spurgeon's assist on Hartman's game-winner was his 370th point, giving him the most in franchise history among defensemen.

As for the standings, the Wild moved two points ahead of the Flames while staying in the second wild-card seed in the Western Conference. They also widened their lead over the Predators in the Central Division to seven points after posting back-to-back victories for the first time since before the All-Star break (Jan. 26-28).

"Just giving them one point is always one point too many," said goaltender Filip Gustavsson, who finished with 23 saves while notching his third win over his past four starts. "So, being able to steal that last point there is huge for us."

BOXSCORE: Wild 4, Nashville 3NHL standings

Brandon Duhaime became just the fifth different forward to capitalize in the last nine games, and sixth over the past 14, when he redirected in a Frederick Gaudreau shot only nine seconds into the second period to tie the Wild record for the fastest goal from the start of the middle frame.

"Another guy at the net front," Hartman said. "Saros is a smaller goalie, so that was a key for us to get in front of him, make him crouch down and try to find pucks."

Kirill Kaprizov put back a rebound at 1:32 for his 15th power play goal, which set a new career high and tied him with Brian Rolston (2005-06) for the most in a Wild season. He also turned a highlight-reel play after former Gopher and St. Thomas Academy standout Tommy Novak spoiled Gustavsson's shutout bid with 2:57 left in the second: just 1:23 into the third period, Kaprizov deftly lifted a breakaway shot over Saros' left pad for his team-leading 33rd goal and 16th multi-point game. This was Kaprizov's fifth multi-goal effort and first since Jan. 4 vs. Tampa Bay.

"I hope we never trade him because I don't want him to come down on me," Gustavsson said. "It seems like he always finds the hole somewhere."

A four-minute power play after Brodin was high-sticked by Niederreiter could have iced the Wild's win, but the Wild blanked on the chance to end up 1-for-5; Nashville went 0-for-2, extending the Wild's streak of consecutive penalty kills to 20 over a season-high seven games.

Then came the frenzied finish, with Predators captain Roman Josi wiring the puck behind Gustavsson at 15:04 before Niederreiter closed the gap.

This dropped the Wild into another photo finish, a situation that probably doesn't faze them anymore since their last five games have all been decided by one goal.

"There was no frustration," coach Dean Evason said. "There was no panic. There was no slamming the door. There was no breaking a stick. There was no yelling. We were just saying, 'Well, OK, here we go.' "