Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators set themselves up for their biggest game of the season with Saturday's 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild at Bridgestone Arena.
Pekka Rinne earned his third shutout of the season by stopping 31 shots while Filip Forsberg and Kevin Fiala scored for Nashville. P.K. Subban added an empty-net goal.
The Predators' victory moved Nashville into a tie in points for third place in the Central Division with St. Louis. The Blues, who have a game in hand on the Predators, will host Nashville on Sunday. The team that finishes in third place will avoid a potential showdown with the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
The Predators also moved within one point of clinching a playoff berth, which would be their 10th in the last 13 seasons.
Minnesota had snapped a four-game losing streak with a win Thursday over Ottawa, but Saturday's loss dropped the Wild to 2-8-2 in their last 12 contests. Minnesota remains comfortably in second place in the Central.
It took just 10 seconds for the Predators to completely transform a game that had been scoreless over the first 37 minutes.
Nashville finally managed to get a puck behind Minnesota goalie Alex Stalock with 2:39 left in the second period when Forsberg registered his 31st goal of the season. Forsberg stationed himself near the Minnesota net just after a faceoff and tipped Roman Josi's shot from the point past Stalock.
Only 10 seconds later, Fiala barreled down the right wing, carried the puck on net and slid it far side on Stalock to double the advantage.
The mini-outburst snapped a bit of a drought for the Predators, who had scored a combined two goals in their past seven periods.
Stalock had been impenetrable until that point, robbing the Predators on a number of attempts in the second period. He turned away Calle Jarnkrok's point-blank attempt with 13:19 left in the second period, robbed Fiala from short range with 7:37 left in the second and stoned Colton Sissons on a spinning rebound attempt with 2:49 left in the second.
Rinne kept the Wild off the board by stopping 22 shots in the first two periods. Minnesota's Zach Parise tested Rinne from the left wing with a blast that knocked the goalkeeper's mask off, but the Wild couldn't find a way to beat Rinne.
NOTES: The Predators scratched D Yannick Weber, D Brad Hunt, RW P.A. Parenteau, LW James Neal and LW Harry Zolnierczyk. Neal was out with an upper-body injury after taking a puck to the head in Thursday's loss to Toronto. ... Nashville C Vernon Fiddler and RW Craig Smith returned to the lineup after both missed one game to injury. ... Predators LW Colin Wilson played in his 500th NHL game. ... The Wild scratched C Jordan Schroeder, LW Jason Zucker, D Nate Prosser and G Darcy Kuemper. ... Minnesota LW Zach Parise returned to the lineup after missing one game with an eye injury.