Mason leads Predators to win over WildBy Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Wed, Jan 23, 2013 12:20 AM EST
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Wild defenseman Ryan Suter knew it would be strange playing against the Nashville Predators for the first time, so it's only fitting that the game turned on a strange play. Nashville's Martin Erat took advantage of a costly Wild turnover, scoring his first goal of the season into an empty net as the Predators won their first game of the season, 3-1 at Minnesota. Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom came out to play a loose puck, but could not get it past Erat, who intercepted the puck and scored with just over eight minutes left in the third period, snapping a 1-1 tie. "It was a hard play for him because the puck was standing on the edge," Erat said. "For a goalie it's always hard to play the puck like that. It just hit me in the stomach. I was actually lucky it didn't hit me somewhere and bounce in the corner." David Legwand added a power play goal in the final seconds for the Predators. "It's a rolling puck, so it's tough," said Backstrom, who finished with 23 saves. "You have to see how it moves, but once I made the decision I think, I don't know if I would do it different because I got to the puck first. I just have to beat him and get it outside." Chris Mason, making his first start of the season in goal for Nashville (1-0-2), finished with 28 saves. Dany Heatley scored his third goal of the season for the Wild (2-1-0), who failed to capitalize in a first period where they controlled the game. For Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, it was his third game with his new team and his first versus the Predators, for whom he had played nearly 600 games over seven seasons. "I thought we had them on the ropes early and (Mason) made some pretty good saves for them," said Suter, who signed a 13-year, $98 million free agent contract with Minnesota over the summer. "Then they got their game back. It was a pretty close game. A few mistakes here and there." Nashville was out-shot 12-5 in the first period, and dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard, where they emerged tied 1-1. Minnesota scored first, when Heatley's shot from the blue line founds its way past Mason. Predators defenseman Kevin Klein tried to glove the puck en route to the net, but managed only to deflect it. Zach Parise was originally credited with the goal, until replays revealed he did not touch the puck. Klein made up for it later, snapping off a shot that Backstrom saved, but Nick Spaling was on the spot, sliding the rebound past the goalie. It was Spaling's first goal of the season. Survival was the key to the first 20 minutes for the Predators, who had played at home Monday night, while the Wild were idle. "We knew that they would have better legs because they'd be sitting there waiting for us," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "(Monday) night we went pretty hard so we knew we had to commit to defending better. I think that next goal, if we fall down two-nothing, it kills your will a little bit and you get tired, but we got it tied up and got out of the first period and then we said, 'It's 40 minutes, just dig in and show our character here.' And we did." Backstrom was much busier in the second period, as the Predators had 10 shots but could not score. "We do have to get a little bit more comfortable playing in these types of games, especially at home for some reason. I think we're more comfortable on the road," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I think that we just kind of created one of those games where we allowed a bounce to be the difference." The Wild play their first road game of the season on Friday in Detroit. The Predators visit St. Louis on Thursday. NOTES: The Wild's first two games were sold out, and big hits on television as well. Saturday's season-opening 4-2 win over Colorado was the highest-rated regular season Wild telecast in Fox Sports North history. The game generated a 7.65 household rating in the Minneapolis-St. Paul TV market, according to Nielsen Media Research. That easily tops the previous regular season high of 4.6 set Dec. 13, 2011 for a Wild game at Winnipeg. Sunday's win over the Stars also broke that previous record, generating a 5.35 rating. ... Tuesday's game was the first of six times this season that the Predators will play back-to-back games, home and away. They lost 4-3 to the Blues in a shootout on Monday night in Nashville. Tuesday was also the first game of a franchise record 12-game road trip for the Predators. ... Predators center Paul Gaustad was scratched for the second consecutive game. He suffered an upper body injury during the Predators season opener on Saturday. Winger Gabriel Bourque, who was recalled from Milwaukee of the AHL on Tuesday, played in his first NHL game of the season and was stopped by Backstrom on a first period breakaway.
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