In the first four games, slow starts have hampered the Minnesota Wild. That's a problem they might want to fix ahead of Monday night's visit to the Nashville Predators.
Minnesota (1-1-2) has allowed the first goal three times in four games, including Saturday, when it lost 5-4 in overtime to Carolina. Nashville (4-1-0) has scored the first goal three times in four games, lighting the lamp three times in the last five minutes of the first period Saturday night in its 5-2 win over the New York Islanders.
The Wild were outshot by a whopping 57-23 against the Hurricanes, yet still felt they should have left the rink with two points. They led 4-3 before Justin Williams equalized at 18:51 of the third period, then lost on Sebastian Aho's marker in the extra session.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk continued his sterling early-season work for Minnesota with 52 saves, one shy of Dwayne Roloson's franchise record. But after a 4-3 overtime win Thursday night over Chicago in which they drove play, the Wild were back to reacting instead of dictating.
"It should be concerning," Minnesota forward Zack Parise said of the team's difficulty getting out of the gate. "One game is one game, but I think you're starting to see a little bit of a pattern now. So, it should be pretty alarming.
"It's almost as if we're surprised by teams that are fast. It's like we're not ready for it or whatnot. Man, they were all over us right away and we couldn't even connect a pass getting up the ice. Not very pretty."
The Predators can play the same way as Carolina, especially in Bridgestone Arena, where they often speak of getting a boost from the home crowd. That's certainly been the case in Thursday night's 3-0 win over Winnipeg and their victory over the Islanders.
They simply overwhelmed New York on both ends of the ice, outshooting them 16-4 in the first period and building a working margin that would hold up for the game's remainder, even when the Islanders cut it to 3-2 entering the third period.
"You could tell our guys were skating well, that they were on point, that they played a simple game and they were delivering pucks to the net," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "Then anything is possible from there."
The Predators' top line of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen again dominated. Forsberg potted two goals and Arvidsson added a snipe off a Johansen feed nine seconds before the first period ended.
Johansen said the team followed up a great start with a second period that needed to be cleaned up.
"We had a good response in the third to shut it down," he said. "We just wanted to get back to the things we were doing in the first period, manage the puck a little better and play good defense."
Pekka Rinne, who delivered the 52nd shutout of his career against Winnipeg, should get the start in this one for Nashville. Backup Juuse Saros earned his second win of the season against the Islanders with 20 saves.