NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We're three games into the season, and the Wild has yet to win a game, has lost its second-line center and now its No. 1 goalie.
This wasn't exactly the start the Wild envisioned.
One game after Charlie Coyle sprained his knee, goaltender Niklas Backstrom was injured in the first period of Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators when former teammate Eric Nystrom crashed into him after being hauled down on a breakaway.
The back of Backstrom's right leg slammed hard against the goal post. Backstrom, who has had a myriad of lower-body injuries the past four seasons, limped off with another.
Josh Harding entered cold off the bench and in the unenviable position of having to face a penalty shot as the first puck aimed his way. Nystrom capitalized to score the eventual winner in a game the Predators actually trailed by a goal at one juncture.
But the game unraveled quickly and in remarkable fashion for the Wild, which fell to 0-1-2 and lost its first-ever Central Division matchup -- the first of three consecutive games against divisional foes. Nashville (1-2) won for the first time.
Backstrom, who missed the playoffs last year with a sports hernia, will be evaluated in Minnesota on Wednesday.
The Wild got power-play goals from Zach Parise and Jared Spurgeon, but Predators goalie Pekka Rinne closed the door from there. Yet again, the Wild tilted the ice at times in terms of scoring chances but could not find a way to prevail.
Harding took the loss because he entered with the Wild trailing 2-1. There was a scare late in the second period when, with Backstrom already done for the night, Harding was tripped by the Predators' Rich Clune.
With Harding down on the ice, Clune shot into an empty net. The goal was waved off, Clune was penalized and Harding, in a hold-your-breath moment with no other Wild goalie available, shook off a hurting right leg.
With a chance to tie after Nino Niederreiter previously set up Spurgeon's first of the season, the Wild's power play couldn't come through.
The Wild actually jumped out to a 1-0 lead after rookie Seth Jones clipped Mikko Koivu in the face. Koivu set up Parise for a goalmouth tap-in to quiet an amped-up crowd intent on booing former Predator Ryan Suter throughout Nashville's home opener.
But the game turned fast thanks to careless penalties on the next two shifts.
Ten seconds after Parise's goal, Kyle Brodziak took a textbook interference penalty. Twenty-one seconds after that, Koivu tripped Jones. Zenon Konopka was already off for fighting, putting three centers in the box as the Wild faced a 5-on-3 disadvantage for 1 minute, 39 seconds.
The Predators turned that 1-0 deficit to a 2-1 lead in a 39-second span. First a deflected shot landed right at the feet of Filip Forsberg, and the former Washington Capitals prospect potted his first NHL goal. On the ensuing 5-on-4, ex-Wild center Matt Cullen fed Colin Wilson, and he sniped a bullet over Backstrom's right shoulder.
At that point, the Wild's penalty kill had surrendered four goals on its opponent's first eight power plays this season.
With the Wild trailing 2-1, defenseman Keith Ballard, who had a tough night, had trouble corralling Justin Fontaine's bank pass off the side wall at the blue line, fanned on his attempted shot and then got into a retreating foot race with Nystrom.
Nystrom was tripped and driven hard into Backstrom.
Ironically, coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday morning that he thought hard about giving Backstrom, who had given up six goals and another two in a shootout in first two games, the night off. But Yeo said Backstrom's previous 4-1-1 career record in Nashville with a 1.93 goals against average was the deciding factor.
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