The Nashville Predators are now 4-1-1 in their last six season openers and improve their record to 9-6-2 in overall home openers. It was Nashville’s power play that kicked off the scoring for the season. Just 2:23 into the game, Craig Smith put one past Cam Ward to give the Predators the early lead. Late in the first, Viktor Arvidsson netted his first career NHL goal.
“It feels great to score goals,” said Arvidsson. “It’s always fun to score. It just feels good because it’s the first one.”
Arvidsson was easily the most exciting prospect to watch in the preseason. Last season in Milwaukee, throughout development camp and the preseason, Arvidsson has only improved. He’s not afraid to shoot the puck, and he certainly isn’t afraid to go to the net. Coincidentally, that’s where he was able to get his first goal.
“You work your whole life to get to the National Hockey League,” said head coach Peter Laviolette.” You finally get in your first game, and you score a big goal. It’s something he’ll remember for the rest of his life. This is a kid that works really hard. He came over, learned the game and now in his first opportunity tonight, he’s able to get a big goal for us.”
Even with the quick start, the Predators were only able to put two on the board. The second period saw a lot more action in their defensive end as Carolina established consistent pressure on them. Even though it took until past the midway point in the game for the Hurricanes to register double-digit shots, they quickly began to catch up in the second and third period after being outshot 14-5 in the first.
“It was nice to get off to a good start,” said Pekka Rinne. “I thought the first period we came out really hard. There was a lot of energy in the building and the boys really feed from that. They came out flying. It was a good first period. After that, I don’t know if Carolina got a little bit better or if we settled down a little bit, but they got a little jump in the second period and started coming in waves. We did a really good job overall and didn’t give them too much. At the end, in those situations, it’s really important to get the two points, but at the same time, we have to bear down those situations where we don’t give teams any life.”
It wasn’t necessarily surviving the third period just for the win for the Predators, but they only managed three shots on net during it. In the last four minutes, Carolina put intense pressure on Nashville and ruined Rinne’s shutout bid with under two minutes remaining. Even so, they got the win in front of the home crowd and it sets them up well for Saturday’s match up with Edmonton.
“I always feel like opening night and playing at home sets the tone for the next short period of games,” said Rinne. “It’s a really big win for us. It’s nice to win at home in front of your home fans. It doesn’t matter who you play against, you’re always nervous for the first game, and it’s nice to get that first game out of the way.”
With Edmonton will come a plethora of media attention. Connor McDavid is making his rounds during his NHL debut. The game against Nashville will be the second of his career and his first home game won’t be until Tuesday against the Stars. With Jordan Eberle out, and a still very young Oilers roster, the Predators can benefit from a quick start and consistent pressure to earn two points on the first Golden Saturday.