Taking the fifth: Wild stay hot with win vs. Preds

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Alexandre Daigle knows he must take advantage of the few opportunities he is getting.

A healthy scratch the past two games and in five of the past 11, Daigle had a goal and an assist to lead the streaking Minnesota Wild past the Nashville Predators 5-1 on Thursday night.

Stephane Veilleux had goal and an assist and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marian Gaborik and Todd White also scored for Minnesota, which won its franchise-best fifth straight.

Nashville got its lone goal from Greg Johnson. The regulation loss was the first time in 10 games that the Predators didn't earn a point. It has three overtime losses in that span.

After assisting on Minnesota's first goal by Veilleux, Daigle put Minnesota up 2-0 late in the first period by fighting off Ryan Suter as he entered the Nashville zone and beating a screened Chris Mason with a wrist shot from the slot.

"What he did differently was when he got the puck he could get away from people, which we've been looking for all year," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "There was a guy close to him and then he takes off. That's what we need from him."

Daigle, the first overall pick in the 1993 draft is now with his sixth team, and he knows the simple things he must do to stay on the ice instead of in the press box.

"I want to play every game, but I know its not going to happen, so when I do get the call I need to produce and I need to create things," he said. "The one thing I want to focus on is shooting the puck. If you look at my stats this year it's almost all passes.
Tonight I had two good shots. You can't pass on those."

He has five goals and 20 assists this season.

Coming off two wins in Detroit that tied the Predators for the Central Division lead, Mason said the Nashville players were not concerned about a letdown against the Wild, who entered the game just three games above .500. The Predators are 2-6-3 in their last
11 games against teams with winning records.

"A lot of times it seems like for some reason if we're not scoring on the power play we don't seem to have a lot of jump or things like that," Mason said. "If you want to be an elite team, you've got to beat the good teams and right now we're not doing that."

Nashville was 0-for-8 against Minnesota's top-ranked penalty kill.

Yet Johnson scored shorthanded 4:56 into the second period when he picked up a loose puck at his own blue line, skated down the right side and put a wrist shot from low in the right circle past Manny Fernandez, who stopped 32 shots for his career-best 20th win of the season. His goals-against average dropped to 1.98, second best in the league behind Dominik Hasek, who blanked Montreal 3-0 on Thursday.

Nashville had a golden opportunity to even things up when penalties to Pascal Dupuis and Derek Boogaard gave the Predators a two-minute five-on-three advantage late in the second period.

Despite keeping pressure in the Minnesota end, the Predators either misfired, had shots blocked by defenseman or Fernandez made the save.

"We were within one and didn't cash in on the full two minutes of five-on-three," Johnson said. "From there they got a lot of momentum and kind of just took the wind out of our sails."

Less than a minute after the Wild penalty kill, a fortuitous bounce gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead.

Minnesota's Brian Rolston and Nashville's Danny Markov battled into the Predators' zone. As Markov tried to clear the puck, it deflected off Rolston's skate and directly to Bouchard, who sent a slapshot past Mason.

Mason started for the first time in nine games and finished with 22 saves.

White and Gaborik scored 43 seconds apart in the third period for Minnesota, 18-1-1 when leading after two periods.

Game notes
Minnesota is 5-0-2 vs. Nashville in the last seven games in St. Paul. ... The Predators lost for the first time in regulation with right winger Scott Walker in the lineup. They are now 13-1-3 when he plays. ... Minnesota scored a first-period goal for the ninth straight game. ... Nashville's Paul Kariya, who had three goals in his last three games was limited to three shots and finished a