Wild fall in regular-season finale
By Jess Myers
ST. PAUL — With their season ending, the Nashville Predators could dismiss long-time coach Barry Trotz. Although the Predators are out of the playoffs, lately Trotz’s players have given the organization ample reason to keep him around.
On Sunday the Predators closed the season with a 7-3 win over the Minnesota Wild and have been one of the NHL’s hottest teams of late, going 9-1-2 in their final dozen games.
Trailing 3-1 in the second period, the Predators got goals from a trio defensemen — Ryan Ellis, Shea Weber and Roman Josi — in a two-minute span. Goalie Carter Hutton had 27 saves for the Predators, who also got a pair of goals from center Craig Smith and single goals from left wing Rich Clune and center Calle Jarnkrok.
Right winger Jason Pominville had a goal and two assists for the Wild (23-27-12), who started goalie Illya Bryzgalov, but lifted him after two periods of their final tune-up before the playoffs begin.
Bryzgalov had 16 saves on 21 Nashville shots and was replaced by John Curry, who finished with 10 saves. Left wingers Erik Haula and Zach Parise also scored for Minnesota, which is heading to the postseason for the fifth time in team history.
Minnesota led 2-0 on goals by Haula and Pominville when Bryzgalov tried to play a puck and stumbled, leaving the net open and leading to Clune’s tap-in goal.
After Parise’s power-play goal early in the second gave the Wild a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead, Nashville scored the next six goals unanswered.
The Predators finish the season 38-32-12 and the departure of Trotz — the only coach Nashville has had since the franchise entered the NHL in 1998 — has been widely rumored. They finished the season with 14 goals in their final two games. Hutton improved to 20-11-4 this season.
For Minnesota, it was the first regulation loss for Bryzgalov, who is now 7-1-3 since joining the Wild in early March via a trade with Edmonton. Pominville’s goal was his team-leading 30th of the season and gave him 30 or more goals in a season for the third time in his career.
NOTES: Wild C Kyle Brodziak had his first two-goal game of the season on Thursday but was scratched Sunday due to an undisclosed injury. It snapped a streak of 231 consecutive games played by Brodziak. ... Predators D Michael Del Zotto’s season came to a quiet end on Sunday as he was a healthy scratch for the fourth time in Nashville’s past five games. Del Zotto, who came to the Preds in a January trade with the New York Rangers, finished the season with just one goal in 25 games for Nashville. ... The Wild will open their second consecutive trip to the playoffs on Thursday in Denver. It will be the third time the Wild and Colorado Avalanche have met in the first round of the playoffs. In 2003, the Wild upset Colorado in seven games. In 2008, the Wild won the Northwest Division but were upset by the Avalanche in six games. ... After making it to the postseason in seven of eight previous seasons, the Predators will be out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season.