Ryan Johansen’s short-handed goal early in the first period was all the offense the Nashville Predators could garner, but also all that they needed in a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night in St. Paul, Minn.
Nashville goalie Juuse Saros made 29 saves for his third shutout of the season and snapped his team’s modest two-game losing skid, as the Predators clinched their fifth straight playoff berth.
The win was crucial for the Predators, too, (43-28-6, 92 points) as it pulled them within two points of the Winnipeg Jets — who lost to Dallas on Monday — for top spot in the Central Division. The St. Louis Blues — who beat Vegas — are two points behind Nashville in what’s shaping up to be an incredible finish for the division title and home-ice advantage for the second- and third-place squads. The Jets and Blues each have a game at hand on the Predators.
The Wild (35-33-9, 79 points) remain two points back of the Colorado Avalanche in the chase for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, with one fewer game remaining.
Johansen’s game-winning tally came 4:32 into the clash on a beautiful play created by Viktor Arvidsson. After a turnover deep in Nashville territory, Arvidsson led a rush up ice that pushed the Wild defenders deep into their zone and made a drop pass just inside the offensive blueline. Johansen worked to the high slot before he ripped a glove-side wrist shot into the net for his 12th goal of the season.
From there, Saros held the fort. The Wild briefly thought they’d tied the game early in the third period, but it was ruled Saros’ pad was pushed over the line, and video review confirmed the call.
Devan Dubnyk stopped 18 shots for the Wild, who have picked a most inopportune time to sputter. With just two wins in its last nine games (2-6-1), Minnesota is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
There was other big news for the Predators on Monday. Dante Fabbro, the club’s 2016 first-round draft choice, signed an entry-level contract and decided to forego his senior season with Boston University. Fabbro collected seven goals and 33 points in 38 games for BU.
–Field Level Media