The Nashville Predators tallied their first win of the season, a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild, that was highlighted by special teams play by both squads.
Pekka Rinne earned his first win, while the loss for the Wild could be costly, as they lost starting netminder Niklas Backstrom to an injury in the first period. Josh Harding came on in relief and finished the game for the Wild.
The Wild opened the scoring at 4:05 of the first period. With Seth Jones in the box for high sticking, Zach Parise eluded the defensive coverage and was alone in front of the net and had an easy tap in off a pass from Mikko Koivu.
The Predators went on the power play as Kyle Brodziak was called for interference at 4:15 of the first period. Just 21 seconds later, Koivu was called for tripping. The Predators made the Wild pay for these penalties.
Seth Jones took a shot from the point and the rebound caromed out to Filip Forsberg. Forsberg sniped a shot over the shoulder of Backstrom, showing a quick release and good accuracy on the score. His first NHL goal came at 5:07 of the first period.
With Koivu still in the box, the Predators continued on the power play, and just 39 seconds later, Colin Wilson fired a shot over the shoulder of Backstom to the far post to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.
Eric Nystom had a breakaway attempt, but was slashed and tripped, crashing into Backstom. Backstrom had his leg trapped under Nystrom and was injured on the play. Nystrom was awarded a penalty shot while Backstrom had to leave the game. Harding came into the game and had to face Nystrom on the penalty shot. Nystrom ripped a shot high glove side just under the crossbar to to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.
The Wild cut the lead to 3-2 as Jared Spurgeon scored with one second remaining on a Wild power play at 7:26 of the second period.
That was it for the scoring for the game, but not for lack of chances. Rinne in particular had to be sharp to keep the Predators in the lead as the Wild peppered the net with numerous shots.
•As good as the first period was for the Predators, the second period was awful. The Wild dominated the Predators and the offensive effort showed the recurring and frustrating tendency of disappearing. The Wild out shot the Predators 12-4 in the second period and had a decided territorial advantage. While many of the shots by the Wild were from the perimeter, the Predators are flirting with disaster when their offense is non-existent.
Rinne was sharp throughout the game and made some big saves to keep the Wild off the board. He looks to have no lingering issues from off season hip surgery.
•The power play went 2 for 4, and it is good to see the power play come to life. The Predators need this unit to be productive, and hopefully this give them confidence.
•The penalty kill is another story. The Predators surrendered two goals on five power play opportunities. Part of that is the young layers on the blue line, and part of this is that the penalty killers have not seemed to gel. This has to improve for the Predators to have success.
•I am still not convinced that Ryan Ellis is a regular and dependable blue liner. he is still dominated by more physical forwards and is not contributing offensively.
•Seth Jones continues to impress. Tonight, he had one assist and lead the team in ice time, logging 25:02.
The Predators needed this win, coming against a divisional rival and starting the season 0-2. Yes, there were some flaws, but the team persevered and competed well. I like the compete level of this team and over time, I believe they will gel and continue to improve.
The Predators next four games are at home in front of their rabid fans.
This is the time to start piling up some wins.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. Filip Forsberg
3. Colin Wilson
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.