Ryan Hartman’s late goal leads Wild to 4-3 win over Predators

Let’s just say the Wild experienced a full palette of emotions in the final minute of Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators.

There was nervousness as they clung to a lead despite some sloppy play down the stretch. There was anger as Predators winger Nino Niederreiter tied the game. There was joy as Ryan Hartman scored with less than 30 seconds left in regulation.

That final goal proved to be the difference as the Wild escaped Xcel Energy Center with a 4-3 win over the Predators. Though the game seemed destined for overtime, the Wild finally got the bounce coach Dean Evason has long been talking about. It helped them secure their first regulation win in more than a month.

“We caught a couple of breaks,” Evason said. “We’ve talked about that for awhile now. We haven’t got them (to) go our way. We had them go our way tonight and it helped us get two points.”

It was an impressive response from the Wild after they nearly let the game slip away.

Though there was some frustration on the bench, they channeled it in a positive way to win the game. As the final seconds ticked away, Jonas Brodin uncorked a shot from the point, and Hartman deflected the puck into the back of the net. It actually went in off of his chest.

“Obviously, it’s been awhile since we won in regulation, so that was frustrating,” Hartman said. “We were able to get out there and get a good bounce.”

The fact the game didn’t get to overtime was big for the Wild. Especially with the Predators chasing them in the playoff race.

“It was very important,” Filip Gustavsson said after another solid start between the pipes. “Just giving them one point is always one point too many.”

The importance of the game wasn’t lost on the Wild early on. They dominated play for prolonged stretches in the first period, yet couldn’t find the back of the net. It marked the fourth straight game the Wild failed to score a goal in the opening 20 minutes.

No matter. Not even 10 seconds into the second period, Brandon Duhaime redirected a shot from Freddy Gaudreau to make it 1-0. Not long after that, Kirill Kaprizov cleaned up a rebound in front to stretch the lead to 2-0. The offensive eruption was a welcomed sight for the Wild as they have struggled to score as of late.

That score held until late in the second period, when St. Paul native Tommy Novak ripped a shot past Gustavsson to help the Predators cut the deficit to 2-1.

With the Wild clinging to their lead at that point, Kaprizov picked his spot early in the third period and beat Predators goaltender Juuse Saros to make it 3-1. Asked about that goal, Kaprizov noted how Saros saved a similar shot earlier in the game, so he wanted to try it again.

“It just kind of happened in the moment,” Kaprizov said. “It was the right spot and it went in.”

Surely, that had to be the dagger, right? Think again.

After drawing a double minor midway through the third period, the Wild responded with a sloppy power play. That left the door open for the Predators, and they barged through, starting with a goal from Predators defenseman Roman Josi to cut the deficit to 3-2 followed by a goal from Niederreiter to tie the game at 3-3.

That simply set the stage for Hartman to play hero.

“Who gives a crap how we score, right?” Evason said with a laugh, referencing how Hartman once again scored without his stick. “We just remember it went in the net.”

The next step for the Wild is making sure the game doesn’t go down to the wire.

“Ultimately it was too close,” Kaprizov said. “We need to find a way to win clean and not make it a chaotic end like that.”

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