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Granlund’s goal the difference as Predators edge Stars in Game 3

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Mikael Granlund‘s seeing-eye shot with 8:19 left in the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and helped give the Nashville Predators a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 3. Nashville now leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET; USA).

The Predators stormed out to a 2-0 lead 14 minutes into the second period as they kept Ben Bishop busy in the Dallas net. Eight minutes after Rocco Grimaldi scored his second goal of the series, Nick Bonino floated a pass to Filip Forsberg, who then added another highlight-reel tally to his resume.

Dallas continued to battle back and broke through minutes after Forsberg’s goal when Mats Zuccarello netted his second in three games. Tyler Seguin would connect after some great work behind the Nashville net by captain Jamie Benn to even the score at two.

Not long after Seguin’s goal, Benn had a glorious chance of his own, but he was denied by the left pad of Pekka Rinne, who finished with 40 saves.

“Just desperation,” Rinne told NBCSN’s Joe Micheletti afterward about the save. “It was a good save at the time.”

But an icing call three minutes later put the Stars in their own zone for a faceoff and unable to get a change. Kyle Turris won the draw and Granlund wired a shot that got by Bishop for the eventual game-winning goal.

Stars head coach Jim Montgomery threw out Benn, Seguin and Alex Radulov in hopes of finding an equalizer, but Rinne and the Predators stood strong to during a third straight one-goal game.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Trade: Predators make splash with Granlund, Wild get Fiala

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When rumors about the Nashville Predators moving Kevin Fiala really started to build, the worry was that they’d sell-low on a promising, but struggling, young player. Luckily, the Predators knew at least one person who’d appreciate Fiala’s skills: Minnesota Wild GM Paul Fenton.

With keeping up with the Winnipeg Jets in mind, the Predators made a bold move, sending Fiala to Minnesota for a very nice forward in Mikael Granlund. The deal appears to be one-for-one, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, and other reporters (including The Athletic’s Mike Russo.)

Predators receive: Mikael Granlund.

Wild receive: Kevin Fiala.

Predators keep pace

The Winnipeg Jets added a needed center in Kevin Hayes, so the Predators were smart to go out and get one of their own, and Mikael Granlund is a very nice find.

One nice bonus is that, unlike pending UFA Hayes, Granlund’s also not a rental — or maybe he’s one of those weekly rentals that old video stores offered. (R.I.P. Blockbuster, although those late fees were not cool.)

Granlund, 26, carries a $5.75 million cap hit through 2019-20, so Nashville gets him for two potential playoff runs.

Granlund generated 69 points in 2016-17, 67 last season, and has 49 points in 63 games. He’s a proven commodity with nice possession stats on what was a pretty sturdy possession team in Minnesota. The Predators’ second line had been struggling mightily this season, and while Kyle Turris‘ struggles have probably been exaggerated by injuries, the bottom line is that Nashville gets better down the middle.

It was clear that Fiala was losing favor with Peter Laviolette/the Predators in general. Maybe Fiala will be a great piece in the future, but the Predators get more of a sure thing in Granlund, and they didn’t just throw away the speedy winger for one run. GM David Poile sure knows how to make trades, huh?

Wild get younger

At 26, Granlund isn’t ancient, but Fiala’s four years younger at 22. There are certain underlying numbers that indicate that we haven’t seen Fiala’s ceiling yet, and in the long run, the difference between the two might not end up being as big as it seems today.

The Buzzer: Wheeler keeps dealing; big apples

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Three Stars

1. Blake Wheeler

What a night for the wildly underrated Winnipeg Jets captain.

Wheeler scored a goal and four assists, crossing 400 for his (again, wildly underrated) career. That milestone helper came as he read Nathan MacKinnon to create a turnover and set the table for Nikolaj Ehlers. Three of Wheeler’s four assists were primary helpers, too.

As usual, the winger brought a great all-around game, earning a +3 rating and logging a significant 3:13 of shorthanded time.

This virtuoso performance extended Wheeler’s point streak to nine games (two goals, 15 assists). Wheeler’s now at 21 points on the season, with 18 of them being assists, which ranks second in the NHL.

Mark Scheifele had a strong game against the struggling Avs, too, scoring a goal and two assists.

2. Mikael Granlund

The Wild absolutely dominated the Ducks, who seem to have no gear other than “hope John Gibson and a few deadly shooters can save the day.”

Granlund and Jason Zucker both generated three points, so you could consider them tied for the second star. Granlund gets the slight edge because he scored two goals and one assist, while Zucker generated two assists and one goal. Again, you could make the argument that Zucker should get that nod instead (or be the third star, if you’re really being difficult), as he had five SOG to Granlund’s two, and Zucker’s tally was the GWG.

Still, Granlund enjoyed a slightly more impressive night, including really making it easy for Zucker on his goal.

The Wild are quietly heating up, with wins in nine of their last 11 games. Bruce Boudreau just finds ways to keep his team’s regular-season-relevant, doesn’t he? Granlund and Zucker deserve serious credit for stepping up with Eric Staal banged up.

3. Chad Johnson

Friday was a solid night for goalies around the NHL. Sergei Bobrovsky earned praise from Torts and had the same number of saves (33) as Johnson. Like Bob, Frederik Andersen only allowed one goal while making 38 stops.

Chad Johnson is the only goalie who earned a shutout on Friday, though.

Considering Jake Allen‘s substantial struggles, the Blues might want to lean on Johnson for a while, as the journeyman goalie has – on occasion – shown that he can carry a team in net at times during certain stretches. The Blues have been able to occasionally create a really nurturing atmosphere for hot-and-cold goalies (like Brian Elliott, Johnson’s creasemate from last season), so perhaps Johnson could go on a mini-run? If nothing else, this was a nice win, especially if Mike Yeo is in any way looking over his shoulder at Joel Quenneville.

In other Blues news, Ryan O'Reilly is on a nine-game point streak.

Highlights

It didn’t translate to a goal, but this bit of Scheifele wizardry was magical:

Speaking of magical, Nick Foligno‘s beautiful pass to Oliver Bjorkstrand played a trick on three Capitals opponents:

Andreas Athanasiou ranks as one of Friday’s honorable mentions, scoring the goal that sent Detroit’s game against the Rangers into OT, then setting up Dylan Larkin for this OT game-winner:

Lowlight

Here’s hoping referee Brad Meier is feeling OK after this uncomfortable fall:

Factoids

Wheeler’s 400th assist wasn’t the only milestone from Friday. Patrick Marleau didn’t do a whole lot for it (Nazem Kadri ended up batting down a puck for a nice goal), but most of his 600 career assists have surely been impressive. (These two assist milestones explain the big apples part of this post’s headline, in case that wasn’t clear.)

Kinda cool to see his old buddy Joe Thornton on this list with him:

Chad Johnson’s enjoyed some nice peak moments in the NHL, but it’s been a while since he’s enjoyed a night like Friday.

Rarely a bad time to see your name next to Wayne Gretzky’s, eh, Blake Wheeler?

Scores

TOR 6 – NJD 1
CBJ 2 – WSH 1
DET 3 – NYR 2 (OT)
STL 4 – SJS 0
WPG 5 – COL 2
MIN 5 – ANA 1

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

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Players of the Night:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

Comeback of the Night:

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night:

Granlund and Dumba:

Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

Red Wings 3, Devils 0

Wild 3, Senators 1

Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Johnson’s hatty, Kane’s 5-point night, Laine hits 100

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Players of the Night:

Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning: He may not get the same recognition as guys with the last name of Stamkos or Kucherov, but Johnson has 16 goals on the season now after a hat-trick in a 5-4 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: Kane had a goal and four assists for the Blackhawks, who dropped eight goals on the lowly Ottawa Senators in an 8-2 win.

Vincent Trocheck, Florida Panthers: Trocheck continued his fine season on Tuesday, grabbing two goals and pitching in an assist in a 7-4 win for the Panthers over the St. Louis Blues.

Highlights of the Night:

Tyler Johnson’s hat-trick goal came after quite the individual effort:

Kyle Connor‘s goal was pretty filthy:

Mike Smith and Mikael Granlund had quite the battle on Tuesday:

Factoids of the Night:

Patrik Laine put his name among Finnish greats tonight:

Not so boring, eh?

https://twitter.com/PR_NHL/status/950950069418721286

MISC:

Scores:

Jets 7, Sabres 4

Capitals 3, Canucks 1

Blackhawks 8, Senators 2

Lightning 5, Senators 4

Panthers 7, Blues 4

Predators 2, Oilers 1

Flames 3, Wild 2


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck