Calle Jarnkrok helps NHL-best Predators defeat Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Far from its best game of the season, the Nashville Predators still found a way to stay on a roll.

Having Pekka Rinne in goal doesn't hurt.

Calle Jarnkrok scored a tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the Predators beat the fading Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Saturday.

Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson also scored for Nashville, which improved to 9-1-2 in its past 12 games and has a league-best 60 points.

"We're going to have our off-nights, but when we have those off-nights we still find a way to win. That's why we're at where we're at," Wilson said.

Nashville wasn't exceptional in its own end, and Rinne was forced to make 36 saves to earn his league-best 28th win of the season.

"He was really good," coach Peter Laviolette said. "There were a couple opportunities where we needed him to step up and he made some big saves."

The Predators were perfect in five short-handed situations, routinely keeping the Wild from getting set up in the zone.

"We killed a lot of penalties tonight, including one of my own high stick," Rinne said. "It was huge tonight. I think PK was one of the keys tonight, 100 percent."

Charlie Coyle scored for Minnesota, which has lost 10 of 12 and began a three-games-in-four-days stretch that includes games in Chicago on Sunday and Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

"It doesn't matter where we play, we've got to figure our game out and play hard. We've got to turn this thing around," Coyle said.

Zach Parise returned for Minnesota after missing two games because of the death of his father. Parise nearly scored in the first 25 seconds.

"I thought I beat him. I think it went through his arm and wide, but I thought I had him. I had a couple good chances tonight, just didn't find them," said Parise, who was robbed later in the period by Rinne after a lead pass from Thomas Vanek said.

Jarnkrok broke a 1-all tie at 3:48 of the third period.

A slap shot from Shea Weber at the right point hit Olli Jokinen who was skating across the slot, but the latter was able to get off a shot that was saved by Niklas Backstrom.

However, the rebound went to Jarnkrok at the edge of the slot and his quick shot easily beat Backstrom lunging back across the crease for his fifth goal of the season.

Wilson added a goal 5 minutes later, beating Backstrom with a backhand after Wild defenseman Justin Falk turned the puck over to Wilson alone in front of the net.

"We wanted to get pucks to the net and get pucks behind the defense. I think in the first two periods we got caught too many times in the middle which just fed into their game," Wilson said.

Nashville entered the game with 43 goals in its past 11 games and was averaging 32.1 shots per game this season, third best in the league. The Predators finished with 27 shots.

Minnesota had allowed 44 goals in its past 11 games and early on it looked as though the defensive woes would continue when a Wild miscue led to a Predators goal 4 minutes into the game.

With three Wild players below the goal line, Wilson won control of the puck and passed out front to a wide-open Fisher. He cut left and backhanded the puck over Backstrom for his second goal in three games.

The Predators are 15-1-2 when scoring first.

Minnesota tied the game 10 minutes later when a shot from Christian Folin near the goal line along the right wall got through traffic to Coyle, who was alone at the left post for a tap-in.

Game notes

Coyle scored two goals in his first five games of the season and has two in 35 games since. ... Wild D Marco Scandella missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Nashville C Matt Cullen (upper-body injury) returned after missing six games and LW Taylor Beck (illness) returned after missing four. ... Wild RW Nino Niederreiter has 14 goals this season, but hasn't scored in 11 games. ... The division rivals play three more times this season, all in Nashville. ... Since Dec. 31, 2010, Nashville is 11-3-3 against Minnesota.