Burns! Then burned: Wild celebrates, then falls in Nashville
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Brent Burns is a member of the NHL All-Star Team. That's the good news for the Minnesota Wild. The bad news? Well, look no further than the scoreboard of Bridgestone Arena in Nashville and you'll find plenty.
This day, which began with the team celebrating its sixth all-time selection to the mid-winter classic squad inside a hotel in snowy Tennessee, ended in ugly fashion at the hands of one of the NHL's hottest teams. That recent prowess on the road faded away quickly at the hands of the Nashville Predators, who broke open a close game in the third period, winning 5-1. It was the Wild's first loss away from home in 2011, and that brief foray into a spot among the Western Conference's top eight teams has disappeared, with the middle of the pack tightly bunched.
By contrast, the Predators are in fourth place in the conference and are suddenly looking like a solid playoff team. It was the second time in as many weeks that Nashville has made the Wild look haggard, having blasted to a 4-1 win in St. Paul on New Year's Eve.
For Burns, the morning accolades gave way to an evening that ended with him a -3 on the night. He got to work in front of not one but two goalies, as starter Jose Theodore was chased from the goal after stopping 21 of the Predators first 25 shots. Anton Khudobin played the game's last 10 minutes and change, stopping four of the five shots sent his way.
Burns is currently second on the team with a dozen goals, and one could argue that the team leader, Cal Clutterbuck, should have been considered for the Jan. 30 game in Raleigh as well. Of course, Clutterbuck is as much known for his hits as he is for goals, and if you've watched the All-Star game in the past, you know that checks are a rarity at best. The game will fit Burns much better, as he's drawn attention for solid play both on offense and defense, and for being a leader behind closed doors.
"Brent is a big part of the atmosphere in the room," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher told Mike Russo of the Star Tribune. "He loves to practice, loves to play, loves to travel, he loves everything about professional hockey. Over a long season, that helps the energy level of our group. He's got a passion for the game that separates him from a lot of people."
Recapturing that on-ice passion will be the next job for Burns and the rest of the Wild. After that stirring road sweep in the East last week, the team has now lost two in a row. The Wild returns to St. Paul for home games with playoff contender Colorado (Friday) and playoff lock Vancouver (Sunday) - the last two home outings of January.