Line change leads to Wild's winning goal

Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Like a good military general, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo picked the perfect time to switch soldiers while sticking to the battle plan.
His team was dominating the Nashville Predators, but not scoring, on Tuesday when Yeo juggled his team's top line, putting rookie Justin Fontaine alongside captain Mikko Koivu and star forward Zach Parise. The move paid off in the second period, as Fontaine's second career goal was the game-winner in a 2-0 Wild victory.
Josh Harding made 16 saves for the Wild to record his first shutout of the season, and Jason Pominville scored into an empty net as Minnesota (4-3-3) snapped a three-game winless streak.
"We were definitely carrying a lot of pressure the whole game no matter what line anyone was on, but we shook things up and I ended up getting a rebound," said Fontaine, who was the leading offensive player for Minnesota's top minor league team last season. "That's a good feeling to get a little spark. We've been struggling to score goals, but if we keep throwing pucks to the net, they're going to go in."
The Predators, who won four of their previous five games, had their quietest offensive night of the season. The previous low shot total for Nashville (5-4-1) was 25.
"We didn't have a lot of energy," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Minnesota came out really hopping, and they were on the puck while we were very slow and very methodical."
Defenseman Clayton Stoner's long-range shot was knocked down but not controlled by Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. Fontaine, at the top of the crease, pounced on the rebound before Rinne could cover.
"(Parise) got it to me and I'm just trying to get it to the net with traffic," Stoner said. "We've thrown enough pucks there. It was lucky that we got a good bounce for once."
Already missing one blue-line mainstay, the Wild's defensive corps grew thinner in the first period when Jonas Brodin was hit in the face by a dump-in shot from Gabriel Bourque. A few minutes after Brodin headed down the tunnel, Wild defender Marco Scandella blocked a Shea Weber slap shot and limped to the bench, leaving Minnesota just four healthy defensemen for a time. Scandella returned in the second period, but Brodin did not play again.
"He got taken to the hospital for some X-rays," Yeo said of Brodin. "That was a pretty hard shot that he took right to the face. I don't have any update."
The coach was quick to credit the other five defenders for picking up the slack in Brodin's absence.
"All those guys did an unbelievable job tonight ... it was all of them," Yeo said. "I was really impressed with the way our D played tonight."
Following on a too-common theme for Minnesota lately, the Wild completely dominated the opening 20 minutes, posting a 13-3 advantage in shots, but got no goals to show for the effort.
Nashville, which won in Montreal and Winnipeg to open a three-game road trip, managed just six shots in the second period, but Eric Nystrom nearly broke the scoreless tie before he was stopped by Harding on a breakaway.
"That was a frustrating game. We looked like a tired team," Predators center Matt Cullen said. "We've had a tough stretch here, and we didn't come out with the same jump and spark that we have lately, and that's been the key to us being pretty successful. We just didn't have that tonight, for whatever reason."
Rinne finished with 27 saves.
NOTES: Wild D Ryan Suter skated in his 600th career game. He played his first 542 games with the Predators, then signed with Minnesota as a free agent in the summer of 2012. ... Both teams were missing key players from the blue line. Predators D Roman Josi sat out his eighth consecutive game with a concussion, while Minnesota was without D Keith Ballard for the fourth consecutive game. Ballard was struck in the face by a puck during the Wild's 2-1 win in Buffalo on Oct. 14. ... Tuesday's game was a homecoming for Predators assistant coach Phil Housley. A native of South Saint Paul, Housley coached high school hockey in the Twin Cities for many years before joining the Nashville staff over the summer. His wife, Karin, is a Minnesota state senator. ... The Wild, in the midst of playing six of seven games at home, host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. The Predators will entertain the Winnipeg Jets in Nashville on Thursday.

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