Predators finally get in win column, top Wild

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE -- It was a night of firsts for the Nashville Predators.
Two highly-touted rookies -- center Filip Forsberg and defenseman Seth Jones -- got on an NHL scoresheet for the first time. One of their key offseason acquisitions -- left wing Eric Nystrom -- potted his first goal for the team in a dramatic moment. And it all led to the season's first win.
Scoring all three of its goals in a 6:07 span of the first period, Nashville edged the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in their home opener Tuesday at sold-out Bridgestone Arena.
Pekka Rinne's 32 saves -- including a pad stop on a slapper from former Predators defenseman Ryan Suter with 18 seconds left -- enabled the early outburst to stand up as Nashville (1-2-0) bounced back from losses at St. Louis and Colorado.
"You've got to have a little success to have confidence," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "If you don't have success, you tend to play cautious. I think you're going to find that this team has lots of good qualities."
For a brief stretch of the first period, Nashville had the offense it sorely lacked last year, when it missed the playoffs for just the second time in nine seasons.
With Minnesota's Kyle Brodziak and Mikko Koivu in the penalty box for interference and tripping, respectively, the Predators tied it at 1 on Forsberg's first NHL goal, a rebound from the left faceoff circle at 5:07.
The 19-year old Forsberg further energized the crowd of 17,196 by jumping into the glass to celebrate his big moment. Jones, the team's first round pick in June's entry draft, drew the second assist for his first NHL point.
"It was a pretty lucky bounce," he said. "I was just waiting for the puck and it came right on my stick. It was an easy one, but a good one to have."
Colin Wilson's wrist shot from the right faceoff circle whizzed over goaltender Niklas Backstrom's stick 39 seconds later, giving Nashville its first lead of the season.
Backstrom then left the game at 11:14 of the period when he injured his right leg after it was slammed into the goal post. Defenseman Keith Ballard slashed Eric Nystrom on a breakaway and Nystrom careened into Backstrom.
Backstrom, who tied for the NHL lead in wins last year with 24, got up after a couple of minutes and skated slowly off the ice and into the locker room. Coach Mike Yeo said after the game that Backstrom would be evaluated Wednesday but offered no further specifics on the injury.
Awarded the first penalty shot of his career, Nystrom, who signed as a free agent July 5 after playing for Dallas the last two seasons, beat backup Josh Harding with a wrist shot over Harding's left shoulder for his first Predator goal.
"He went in cold and the first shot he had to face was a penalty shot," Nystrom said, "so that was pretty unfortunate for Minnesota."
It was the only puck that got past Harding, who made 19 saves in a solid relief effort that only reinforced coach Mike Yeo's confidence in him should Backstrom miss any game action.
"We saw what he can do tonight," Yeo said of Harding. "I give him an awful lot of credit. Coming in and giving up that goal, which would be tough for any goalie to save in that situation, and then the way he battled and played to keep them at 3 the rest of the game ... that was huge."
Zach Parise put the Wild ahead 1-0 at 4:05 of the first on a power play tip-in, his third goal in as many matches, off a sweet pass from Koivu. Jared Spurgeon edged Minnesota (0-1-2) within a goal on a power play marker from the high slot at 7:26 of the second.
NOTES: Nashville played without D Roman Josi (concussion), who was injured on a hit by Colorado's Steve Downie Friday night in a 3-1 loss in Denver. It also did without LW Viktor Stalberg (shoulder) for the third straight game. ... Minnesota didn't have the services of C Charlie Coyle (knee) and LW Mike Rupp (lower body). Coyle is expected to miss between 3 and 4 weeks. ... The Wild recalled LW Jason Zucker and RW Carson McMillan from Iowa of the American Hockey League. Zucker dressed, while McMillan was scratched. ... Nashville entered the night ranked seventh in faceoff percentage at 54.2 percent. It was tied for 18th (49.7 percent) in the shortened 2013 season. The Predators won 41 of 74 faceoffs Tuesday night.

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