From the moment he stepped into Bridgestone Arena wearing a gold and blue suit, P.K. Subban was the man of the hour as his first period goal helped the Nashville Predators defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on opening night.
For Subban, it was a chance to finally let his play, instead of “the trade,” do the talking.
“It’s a special group, and I just look forward to being able to put all the crap that’s happening in the media, off the ice, around us just away because we’ve got a really good group of guys,” Subban said. “I think if we’re focused, and the focus is on our team and not just on crap off the ice, I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”
“That’s part of what I said in my speech after the game. Let’s just focus on playing hockey and keep moving forward. That’s a great hockey team over there that we just beat. We have to be prepared to do it again tomorrow, but I think everyone in that dressing room should feel confident. That felt like a playoff game today.”
His goal opened the scoring for the Predators in the first period on the power play. He got a pass from Ryan Johansen at the top of the offensive zone, hesitated for a moment, then blasted the puck past goaltender Corey Crawford to tie the game at 1-1. He capped it off with a very Nashville take on his classic “shoot the lights out” celebration, roping an invisible lasso, tapping the Predators logo on his chest, and proceeding with the traditional “bow and arrow.”
P.K. Subban’s goal celebration on a loop, because the internet deserves it: pic.twitter.com/jEuQeByrHl
— Mark Harris (@MCHisTweeting) October 15, 2016
Subban said after the game that he thought his former goaltender and “triple low five” celebration partner, Carey Price, would be proud of the emphatic celebration.
It also didn’t take very long for Subban to get ingratiated with the rivalry between the Predators and Blackhawks. He took two penalties in the third period, including a roughing call for shoving Chicago star Patrick Kane to the ice away from the play (Kane received an embellishment call on the same play). He was jawing at the visitors all night, and got an interference call in the final minutes for shoving Marian Hossa in front of the Predators net.
“They’re a great team over there,” Subban said of the Blackhawks. “They’ve got some great players. My job, when I’m out there, is not to make it easy on them. As a player who likes time and space to make plays myself, I know how hard it is when guys are in your face every time you look up the ice, every time you turn, every time there’s a rebound, if somebody’s cross checking or hitting you, it’s tough. It makes things tough. I just tried to make it as hard as I could on them tonight.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette sung his praises after the game as well.
“We’ve said it all along, he’s a passionate person,” Laviolette said. “He’s passionate in life and passionate in the game, and had a terrific game.”
It was also a big night for Kevin Fiala, who played opening night on the Predators roster for the first time. He played over 11 minutes with some of the Predators’ top offensive weapons, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg. The 20-year-old didn’t find the score sheet, but he did have two shots and two takeaways.
“You’ve got to remember he’s a young player,” Laviolette said of Fiala. “I thought he had a good game. He can bring a lot to that line offensively, and you saw it sometimes in the offensive zone, below the top of the circles, I thought they could have had a goal or two. He’s a young player, he’s learning, he’s playing with a couple of good players, but what it did was it gave me a good balance through the lines.”
Fiala said he had to shake off some butterflies going into this game.
“I was a little nervous, actually, but it was the first game,” he said. “I mean, everybody was nervous. I’m just going to keep going, and it’s getting better.”
Although it wasn’t his first go-round in Nashville, Fiala was taken aback by the raucous atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s unbelievable, our fans are awesome. We’re thankful for that.”
The Predators made a quick flight to Chicago tonight and take on the Blackhawks again Saturday night at 7:30 PM.