The Nashville Predators pounded the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 in their season opener. The thrill of that victory was tempered by an injury to starting goaltender Pekka Rinne early in the third period.
Rinne was injured when Troy Bodie of the Ducks and Francis Buillon collided with Rinne as Bodie drove the net. Several players piled in on Rinne as the Predators sought to protect their goaltender. Rinne looked shaken but stayed in the net. After freezing the puck on a shot on net, Rinne took himself out of the game. As he left the ice, he was flexing his right knee. Anders Lindback came in and finished the last 17:22 of the game, stopping all 7 shots that he faced.
After a scoreless first period that saw the Predators tally a 16-9 shot advantage, the Predators got on the board at 4:10 of the second as Marcel Goc gathered in a bouncing puck and fired a shot over the shoulder of Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller.
Anaheim tied the game 1:15 later in the second as Saku Koivu was left alone in the slot and wristed a puck over the shoulder of Rinne.
Steve Sullivan scored on the power play as Sheldon Brookbank was in the box for interference. The Predators had good puck movement and Sullivan was alone on the left wing. He fired a shot at Hiller who was screened by Patric Hornqvist. Hiller never saw the shot as Sullivan put it over the shoulder of Hiller to give the Preds a 2-1 advantage.
The Predators stretched the lead to 3-1 as Patric Hornqvist batted a floating puck out of the air. Shea Weber sent a soft shot toward the net and Hornqvist was able to bat the puck past Hiller to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.
The Predators finished the scoring at 12:39 of the third period as David Legwand shot a puck at Hiller, who sprawled to make the save. The rebound came back to Legwand, who roofed the puck into the back of the net over the prone Hiller.
Rinne was called day to day by Head Coach Barry Trotz in his post game remarks. The Predators have a couple of days off, so it will give the team time to evaluate the seriousness of Rinne's injury.
While the injury to Rinne puts a damper on the Predators win, there are a number of positives that are to be taken away from this game.
The Predators have four lines that can put the puck in the net. This will obviously serve the Predators well during the season. having the ability to roll four lines that are a scoring threat is important to the success of this franchise. The offensive prowess of the Predators came in spite of the fact that the line of Lombardi, Erat, and Wilson- considered one of the top lines for the Predators- was held off the score sheet. It will be important for the Predators to get this line active and on the scoresheet.
The Predators defense did a great job of limiting chances by the Ducks. Nashville out shot the Ducks 47-39, being out shot only in the second period by a 19-12 margin. In the third period, the Predators held the Ducks to only 7 shot on goal. Most times, Rinne and Lindback had a clear look at the puck, with the defense clearing space in front of their netminders throughout the contest.
It's always good to get the first game under your belt, especially when you dominate on home ice like the Predators did tonight. They have to build on this win, and hopefully will not be without their starting netminder in their next contest.
The Predators exhibited the tenacity and toughness that this season will require. They have to continue to play as they did tonight to have continued success.
Do that, and they will continue to confound the pundits that count them out.