ST. PAUL, Minn. — As the Minnesota Wild swarmed Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne early, Mikael Granlund was at the center of the action.
Granlund’s aggressiveness was a sign of things to come for the Finnish forward and Minnesota in an important divisional game. Granlund had the second three-goal game of his career and Devan Dubnyk made 41 saves in his first start since Dec. 12 to help the Wild beat Nashville 4-2 on Friday night.
“I think it was the best start of the year for us,” Granlund said. “It makes it easier the whole game when you have a start like that and put the pressure on early.”
Granlund scored twice in the first period and had four shots as Minnesota put up a season-high 18 shots in the period. The Wild had the first 11 shots of the game.
“He was making plays,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said of Granlund. “It was like a yo-yo on his stick tonight. When he gets like that, he’s as good as there is. I hope he can continue it now.”
Matt Dumba had a goal and assist for the Wild, who have won two in a row coming out of the league’s holiday break. Dumba scored the go-ahead goal, his seventh of the season, midway through the second period in the first game of a back-to-back, home-and-home series between the two teams.
Pekka Rinne made 34 saves, but the Predators lost for the fourth time in five games. P.K. Subban and Kyle Turris scored for Nashville.
“I thought that we weren’t really ready for the game,” Rinne said. “After that we got it going in the second and third period and played really strong stretches of hockey. But still, I mean, once in a while we do this to ourselves and it’s not a good feeling when you feel, I don’t know what it is in the start of the game, we just weren’t at our best.”
Dubnyk made his return after missing six games with a lower-body injury. He wasn’t tested much early as the Predators went the first 7:57 without a shot.
“It was awesome to watch,” Dubnyk said. “For us to come out in a game that we all talked about being obviously the biggest game of the year for us, to have that start, you know it’s what were capable of.”
Granlund scored before Nashville had its first shot on goal. Turris made a quick play to save a loose puck behind Rinne. But the errant pass went out to Dumba, who fed Granlund for a one-timer.
Rinne made several big saves to keep the game close before Subban tied the game with his eighth goal of the year in the first. Granlund added his 10th goal of the season less than a minute later on the power play.
“When he’s got that Granny vision going he’s hard to stop,” Dumba said. “He’s awesome to watch. This is the Granny we’ve all come to know and him being one of my good friends, I expect that from him.”
Nashville had 18 shots in the second and held a 43-38 advantage in the game.
“When you enter a game mentally and physically you got to be ready for the wars and the battles, and we were slow to get out of a hole tonight,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were first everywhere. There’s no excuse, it’s got to be better. We’re not going to win games by giving away first periods.”
Minnesota (20-15-3) faced a critical stretch after the league’s mandated holiday break with three games against divisional opponents. The Wild beat Dallas before the back-to-back against Nashville(22-10-5), which was leading the Central Division heading into Friday.
NOTES: Wild coach Bruce Boudreau left the bench in the third period, bleeding after taking a puck to the head. He later returned after getting stitches. … Zach Parise returned to Minnesota after a one-game conditioning assignment with Iowa of the American Hockey League. Parise has been out all season after undergoing back surgery on Oct. 24. He played 15:26 with one assist and one shot on goal for Iowa. … Wild F Nino Niederreiter skated on Friday. He missed his third game with a lower-body injury. Boudreau was hopeful Niederreiter could return next week. . Nashville has been outshot 103-52 in the first period over the past seven games. … Subban has four goals and five assists in his last eight games after going scoreless in seven straight.
The two teams reunite for their home-and-home series Saturday in Nashville.