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04/14/2014 12:21 AM EDT
Predators finish strong with 7-3 win vs. Wild
NASHVILLE 7, MINNESOTA 3

By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Sports Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The Nashville Predators finished strong,
even if was for naught.

The Minnesota Wild are hoping this is only the start.

Craig Smith had two goals and two assists, and the Predators
used a second-period barrage against goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to
beat the playoff-bound Wild 7-3 on Sunday.

"Like the last exhibition game before the start of a season,
always happy to have that one over with," Wild coach Mike Yeo
said.

The Wild wrapped up the first wild card spot in the Western
Conference earlier in the week and had their first-round matchup
with the Colorado Avalanche set before the game, so there were
few motivators other than the maintenance of health and momentum
and maybe a statistical milestone or two. Well, all but the
momentum was accomplished. No new injuries were reported, and
Jason Pominville got his 30th goal.

"Obviously it wasn't pretty. It wasn't the way we want to end it
and I don't want to make an excuse for it, but I think those
things will happen when you're in and the other team is out,
playing loose," Pominville said.

For the second straight night, Nashville scored seven times. The
Predators won 7-5 at Chicago on Saturday. Good way for coach
Barry Trotz, the only bench boss the franchise has ever had, to
go out if he's not retained. Trotz said he realized this could
be his last game with the team.

"If I said differently I'd be lying," he said.

Bryzgalov, though, didn't do himself or the Wild any good with
this shaky performance, as meaningless as the game was.
Bryzgalov posted back-to-back shutouts in victories over
Pittsburgh and Winnipeg on April 5 and 7, but in a win over
Boston he gave up three goals on 24 shots in regulation, though
he was unscored upon in the shootout.

Bryzgalov, acquired from Edmonton for a fourth-round draft pick,
has allowed eight goals over the last 45 shots he's faced. John
Curry, the fifth goalie used by the Wild this season, replaced
him for the third period.

Ryan Ellis, Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Smith scored
consecutively in the second period to steer Bryzgalov toward the
bench at the second intermission. Rich Clune had a goal in the
first period, and Calle Jarnkrok and Smith scored in the final
frame.

Erik Haula, Jason Pominville and Zach Parise scored for the
Wild, who gave up a season-high seven goals.

One of the reasons the Wild were safely in, rather than
scrambling to win their last game to qualify as they did last
season, was the sturdiness shown by the 33-year-old Bryzgalov
down the stretch with their top three goalies unavailable due to
injury or illness. This was his first regulation loss in 11
starts - he went 7-1-3 - since arriving the day before the trade
deadline. But this was ugly.

Yeo didn't flinch, though.

"I'm not worried about him," the coach said, adding: "You look
at tonight, and we were brutal in front of him."

The Predators missed the playoffs for a second straight year,
putting Trotz's future in question.

"That's not our decision to make. There's nothing that we could
do as players in this locker room. We played our hearts out for
him. He's a great coach and we'll see what happens," Weber said.

Nashville went 9-1-2 in its final 12 games, including eight
regulation wins, but finished in 10th place - three points below
the cut.

The Predators killed every penalty over their previous five
games, a streak that ended when Parise scored his 29th goal - he
missed 15 games earlier this season - early in the second period
to give Bryzgalov and the Wild a 3-1 edge. Nashville also became
the only team in the league this season to not allow a
short-handed goal, stretching its streak to 99 games without
one.

"We stuck with it. You always want to go out on a good note,"
said Smith, who passed Weber for the team lead with 24 goals.
Weber had 23 and Patric Hornqvist finished with 22. Weber
tallied a career-high 56 points.

"If he doesn't win the Norris this year it's going to be an
absolute crime," Trotz said.

NOTES: With 98 points, the Wild matched their second-best record
in franchise history. After going 5-14-5 on the road in last
season's lockout-abbreviated schedule, the Predators finished
19-15-7 away from home. ... Pominville became only the third
different player in Wild history to hit the 30-goal mark. Marian
Gaborik (five times) and Brian Rolston (three times) were the
others. ... Clune was called for roughing and cross checking and
slapped with a 10-minute misconduct. He finished with 166
penalty minutes this season, fourth-most in the NHL.

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