Minnesota Wild's Nate Prosser, left, gives a tap on the helmet to Minnesota Wild's Jonas Brodin of Sweden after Brodin scored against Nashville Predators goalie Carter Hutton in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Nino Niederreiter snagged the puck off the boards and rushed toward the net, deftly setting up a wrist shot with a slick deke to each side.
The puck whizzed past Nashville goalie Carter Hutton's stick to give Minnesota an overtime victory but, before it got there, it had to elude Niederreiter's good friend.
Niederreiter's goal with 2:44 left in the extra period lifted the Wild past the Predators 3-2 on Thursday night, and the tipped shot went between the legs of Roman Josi, who will play with Niederreiter next week for Switzerland in the Olympics. They'll be roommates, actually.
"I might mention it to him right now, but I'm not sure if he'll be happy about it," Niederreiter said. "At the same time, like I said, it was a big win for us and we needed those points. It felt like a playoff game out there because it was a pretty tough one."
Jonas Brodin and Zach Parise scored early to offset two goals for the Predators by Craig Smith, who raised his team-leading total to 18. Hutton made 33 saves and helped thwart a Wild power play in the waning minutes of regulation, but that wasn't quite enough. All three goals Hutton gave up were to his stick side.
"It was like a knuckle puck," Hutton said of Niederreiter's winner.
Josi was impressed by his buddy but not happy with him.
"We didn't play that well in the first. We played a little slow, and they got on us quick. After that we played a good game. We obviously wanted two points, but it's good to get a point on the road," Josi said.
Smith tied the game midway through the second period when he redirected defenceman Victor Bartley's shot past Darcy Kuemper, who made his 12th straight start in goal for the Wild. The Predators hit the post twice in that middle frame and with another try in the third period.
"A little bit of puck luck goes a long way," Kuemper said, adding: "I was just trying to do my part to battle and help the guys out because they were sure helping me out."
Kuemper made 16 saves to improve to 7-3-2 since Jan. 1, and the Wild raised their home record to 21-7-2 this season. Coach Mike Yeo stressed to his players this week the danger of looking ahead to the break and not letting up against a team behind them in the standings, and their performance suggested the message was received.
"I was real impressed with our guys, the way that they approached this game," Yeo said. "I asked them for a playoff-type mentality coming into the game, and that's a lot to ask for in February when you're about to go on a long break, but they brought it."
Parise wasn't worried about a letup.
"I think we're all mature enough that we understood we have a game still before, and I don't think that was ever a concern about guys thinking about their flights tomorrow or their plans for the break," he said.
The Predators had a jarring start to their day, when television announcer Pete Weber was taken for emergency heart surgery and general manager David Poile was hit by an errant puck that flew off the ice during the morning skate and hit him in the face where he was standing behind the bench.
Poile was staying in a hospital overnight for observation and evaluation, the team said, and was unable to be present for the pregame ceremony the Wild held for all the Olympians in attendance for each team. Poile is the general manager for Team USA.
"There was some bad stuff that happened today, but we've got to come out and find a way to get two points," Hutton said. "Good for them. We weren't able to do it."
The Predators are in last place in the Central Division but still within striking distance of the playoffs.
"It was a good road point considering all the stuff that went on today," coach Barry Trotz said, adding: "We grind them out."
NOTES: Wild D Marco Scandella sat out due to a sprained knee sustained the previous game. LW Stephane Veilleux cleared waivers and was sent to AHL affiliate Iowa. ... Smith has 20 points and 12 goals in his last 23 games. ... Niederreiter has 12 points and a plus-six rating in his last 19 games.
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