NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Nashville Predators may not have
their top goaltender for the postseason, but they will start the
playoffs at home.
Mike Sillinger scored two goals, and the Predators clinched
home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs on their
first try with a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday
night with their fourth straight victory.
"It's nice to have two goals, but home ice is nicer,"
Nashville came into the game needing only two points to clinch
the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, and even an Anaheim loss
in regulation at Edmonton later Thursday night would have clinched
the highest seeding yet for a franchise making only its second
But the Predators erased the need to wait and watch with new No.
1 goaltender Chris Mason stopping 28 shots for his fourth straight
victory since replacing Tomas Vokoun, whose season was cut short by
"It's the evolution of our team, trying to go to that next
level," said Nashville captain Greg Johnson, who became the first
player in franchise history to play 500 games with the Predators.
"It's a natural progression, and our next goal is win a series and
go from there."
Dan Hamhuis and Shea Weber each had a goal and an assist, and
Scottie Upshall added three assists for the Predators who wrap up
the season with two more games at home. With the victory, they also
tied idle Carolina for most home victories in the NHL, improving to
"That was really important for us," said Mason, who improved
to 10-5-1 this season. "We really wanted it ... It's so important
for us to go into the playoffs playing like this."
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said the Predators will have a
chance in the playoffs.
"It depends on what this guy (Mason) is going to do. You lose
your top goalie, not a good thing before the playoffs," Lemaire
The Wild came in with postseason hopes already extinguished. But
Minnesota had won four of its past five games and gave goalie Josh
Harding his third career NHL start. In his last start, he earned
his first shutout with a 2-0 win over Chicago on Tuesday.
"Josh played terrific for us tonight," Rolston said. "We
didn't give him a lot of support."
Hamhuis beat Harding by redirecting a pass from David Legwand
off the goalie's right foot for a 1-0 lead at 17:03 of the first
The Wild tied the game 1-1 28 seconds into the second as Rolston
scored his 34th goal this season on the power play, throwing the
puck through traffic. Minnesota tried to slow down the Predators in
a game that featured a combined 20 penalties for more than 25
Sillinger put Nashville ahead to stay with his 30th, chasing the
puck, spinning and sweeping it off Harding's left foot into the net
at 4:03 of the second. Weber padded the lead with his second goal
on the power play off an assist from Paul Kariya with a one-timer
from the left circle.
Within the first two minutes of the third, Sillinger made it 4-1
on a slapshot that bounced in from the corner of the post.
"Everyone is playing well," Sillinger said. "We just need to
get healthy and keep going."
Rolston said Nashville's power play remains deadly with the
Predators scoring twice on six chances against the NHL's best
"I would put them up there with some of the best in the league,
toughest to play against at least," he said. "And they didn't
even have (Marek) Zidlicky in there or (Steve) Sullivan."
Sullivan, Nashville's second-leading scorer, sat out his sixth
straight game with a groin injury, and Zidlicky has missed eight
with an injured shoulder.
Johnson is one of three players still on the roster from
the 1998 expansion draft with Scott Walker and Vokoun. ...
Minnesota dropped to 11-25-4 when allowing the opponent to score
first. ... Wild right wing Pierre-Marc Bouchard extended his points
streak with his assist, and he now has nine points in 11 games. ...
Predators left wing Scott Hartnell and center Yanic Perreault were