By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators opened the 2010-2011 season with a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks in front of a sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville dominated most of the play and found success on special teams, but the win came at a cost. Starting goaltender Pekka Rinne was forced to leave the game early in the third period with what is being described as nothing major.
After a scoreless first period, Goc opened the scoring on a wrist shot over the glove of Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller at 4:10 into the second period. The Predators wouldn’t be able to hang onto the lead for long, when 1:15 later Saku Koivu scored on Pekka Rinne with a wrister from the slot.
On Nashville’s third power play of the night, Steve Sullivan scored his first of the season with a slap shot, after Ryan Suter faked taking the shot and instead sent the puck over to Sullivan at 8:33 of the second period.
With a 2-1 Nashville lead, Anaheim found itself with a 2-man advantage for 45 seconds midway through the middle frame. Joel Ward had been called for tripping and while defending the penalty, Francis Bouillon was called for boarding.
The Predators killed off the penalty and Patric Hornqvist scored less than 2 minutes later when Shea Weber threw the puck in front of the net and Horqvist was there to hammer it home, as he had done 30 times last season.
David Legwand scored the final goal for Nashville in the third period to finish out the scoring.
Early in the third period, Troy Bodie collided with starting Rinne when Bouillon pushed him into the goalie. Bouillon and Bodie had also fought in the first period. Though Rinne appeared to be alright, he only played another minute before asking to come off. Backup goalie, and rookie, Anders Lindback, played for the remainder of the game, stopping all 7 shots he faced in over 17 minutes of ice time.
Head Coach Barry Trotz was pleased with Lindback’s performance. Trotz said “One of the guys said [Pekka] might be coming out, so I told Lindback to start stretching. It was good for him. A young kid got in there in what was still a two-goal game. I thought he fared really well. It was neat. His parents had flown in and were helping him get settled here in Nashville and they got to see him play, so that was real nice.”
Captain Shea Weber said it is tough when one of the team’s best players goes down but added that “Lindback’s a great goalie too and he came in and stepped up and made a couple big saves right away.” Ryan Suter added that the team didn’t change their play at all as a result of Lindback going in for Rinne. “No we wanted to continue to play strong in both ends of the ice. Give Lindy a good chance to feel the puck and get in there. It was neat to have him come in and just experience the whole thing.”
As for Rinne, he is listed as day to day with a lower body injury. Trotz said the team would recall a goalie from Milwaukee for a couple of days and see where Rinne is at, but he doesn’t expect Rinne will be out for any significant amount of time.
Nashville’s special teams were the clear difference maker Saturday night. Last season the Predators struggled on the power play and the penalty kill, raking near worst in the league on both accounts. Saturday night, Nashville killed off three penalties, including the 5 on 3 for Anaheim.
Nashville had an uncharacteristically high 49 shots on goal. Anaheim threw 37 pieces of rubber at Rinne and Lindback. But the save of the night didn’t come from one of the two goalies who combined faced a total of 86 shots. Midway through the second period, Teemu Selanne was looking at an empty net with the puck on his stick only to be foiled by a sprawling Ryan Suter. “I shouldn’t have been out of position. If I would have been standing next to him I wouldn’t have had to do that,” Suter said, adding, “Yeah it looked good but it couldn’t have been prevented.”
The Predators are taking tomorrow off before getting back to work on Monday. Nashville’s second game of the season is on Wednesday night when the Predators travel to Chicago to face the Stanley Cup Champions, the team that took Nashville out of the playoffs just a few months ago.
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