If the Minnesota Wild somehow lose hold of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the name Ryan Johansen will be mentioned often during the offseason around the northern area affectionately known as the State of Hockey.
More specifically, those Minnesotans will be talking about the two that got away in the last three days.
That would be two extra points that Johansen snatched from the Wild in a home-and-home series. Nashville’s top-line center scored the game-winning shootout goal in the Predators’ wins over Minnesota on Sunday and Tuesday, slow-rolling his way to game-clinching tallies in the fourth round of both wins.
The Wild (32-27-8, 72 points) continue their three-game road trip Thursday at Tampa Bay, where they will face the Lightning.
The Western Conference team still clung to the second wild-card spot after Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss in Nashville — two points clear of the Colorado Avalanche and three ahead of the Arizona Coyotes. The Wild also dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Predators in St. Paul on Sunday.
The two tight contests played out similarly, too.
The Predators rallied in the final five minutes on Filip Forsberg’s 22nd goal to force overtime on Sunday. With the shootout tied after three rounds following markers by Nashville’s Ryan Ellis and Minnesota’s Zach Parise, Johansen skated in slowly and put the game-winner past goalie Alex Stalock.
Johansen — who is 15-for-41 in the one-on-one scenario in his career, but 3-for-3 this year — used the same slow move Tuesday to beat Devan Dubnyk, who like Stalock protested that the center’s forward progress came to a stop. But officials confirmed a good goal both times.
The two shootout losses may appear to be opportunities squandered, but Minnesota earned its point on Tuesday. Coach Bruce Boudreau pulled Dubnyk for the extra attacker with over two minutes remaining, and former Predators forward Kevin Fiala, who was traded to the Wild at the deadline, scored his second goal of the game to send it to overtime.
Fiala’s heroics extended Minnesota’s season-high point streak to seven games (5-0-2), which didn’t surprise the Wild’s coach.
“The one thing about our team recently 1/8is 3/8 we don’t quit. We keep fighting and fighting,” Boudreau said.
The contributions that Tampa Bay (51-12-4, 106 points) continues to get have removed any drama from its regular season. The Lightning held a comfortable 17-point advantage on the rest of the league after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Winnipeg, leading the Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins in pursuit of the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Lightning’s fourth line of Adam Erne, Mathieu Joseph and Cedric Paquette had big nights. The trio combined for two goals and three assists as Tampa Bay split the two-game season series 1-0-1 with the Jets and won its eighth straight at home.
Erne had a goal and an assist, Joseph posted two helpers and Paquette scored for the Lightning, who have outscored their opponents 56-26 in the last 13 games (12-1-0) and are 14-1-2 in their past 17.
Erne, who had not scored in 26 games, said his line’s production is vital.
“It’s really good for us, and it’s going to be really important come playoff time to get production from all four lines. Can’t just rely on the top guys all the time,” Erne said.
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