The Nashville Predators will look to build on a rare offensive explosion when they visit the stingy Minnesota Wild in a Central Division matchup on Sunday.
Nashville, which had lost three of four games while totaling five goals, erupted for a new season high in a 7-3 win against the visiting Florida Panthers on Saturday.
Tommy Novak scored two goals, Roman Josi had a goal and two assists, and Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist as Nashville rallied from a 2-1 first-period deficit.
Kevin Lankinen made 30 saves, and Ryan McDonagh tied his career high with three assists.
“For the majority of the game tonight, we were really clicking and didn’t have any passengers,” McDonagh said. “It was great to see us offensively get rewarded in a lot of areas there, and not compensate too much on the defensive end, either.”
It was the first two-goal NHL game for Novak, who was a healthy scratch for two games before returning to the lineup Thursday against Boston. The 25-year-old Novak had gone 12 games without a goal and appears to have benefitted from the healthy scratch.
“Sometimes a game off or two isn’t the worst thing for guys,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “They come back in, they’re energized, refreshed and ready to go. … He’s a guy that has great poise with the puck and makes plays when he has time and space. He was one guy in particular we talked with, and tonight you see the difference in his game.”
The Predators were again without forward Filip Forsberg, who missed his third consecutive game with an upper-body injury.
Goalie Juuse Saros, a 5-0 loser to the Bruins on Thursday, is 5-1 with a 1.32 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in his career against the Wild.
Minnesota has had trouble scoring during its seven-game homestand (2-2-1 so far) but has stayed in games thanks to the strong goaltending of Filip Gustavsson. The 24-year-old is 2-0-1 with a .957 save percentage in his past three starts, all of which have ended in shootouts, including a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Friday in which Gustavsson made 29 saves.
That has been crucial because the Wild are averaging just 1.8 goals in their past five games.
“He’s been awesome,” said Matt Boldy, who scored the decisive goal in a shootout against the Stars. “He’s like a wall back there right now.”
Mats Zuccarello scored his 20th goal of the season against Dallas as the Wild won for just the second time in seven games despite allowing three goals or less five times.
“To play the way that we played defensively, but the way that we worked, was again positive,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We’ve had (games like that) for a while now. We just haven’t got the two points on a consistent basis. We need to keep doing it.”
Zuccarello has five points (one goal, four assists) in a four-game point streak and 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his past nine games.
The Wild went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill to extend their streak to 18 straight kills.
Gustavsson has never faced the Predators, who won the first meeting between the teams this season, 2-1 on Nov. 15.
–Field Level Media