by Jackson Walsh
The Nashville Predators came into Thursday night’s season opening contest looking to start things right. After all, it was a clean slate and a new, exciting season of hockey. It was an aggressive, tight contest all throughout 60 minutes of play at Madison Square Garden.
The first period was a grind for both teams, lots of hits, takeaways and strong saves by the big name goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist. Neither team broke the scoreless ice until Filip Forsberg slapped the puck blocker-side from the strong side of the slot beating “King Henrik” to put the Predators ahead 1-0, 3:54 into the second period.
The Rangers would atone for this goal a few minutes later. After a giveaway in the Nashville zone by Filip Chytil, the scrap Ranger rightwinger Jesper Fast had a slap shot saved by Rinne which Chytil recovered behind the net and passed back to Fast who knocked home the equalizer and evening back up the contest 1-1, 7:37 into the period.
This period was also the start of a couple of 4-on-4 opportunities for both clubs as both Predators center Zac Rinaldo (holding) and Rangers center Vinni Lettieri (embellishment) both ended up in the box. The other was in the third period, a Rangers bench minor penalty for too many men on the ice following a holding call against Subban. Each team only had one power play and six penalty minutes each on the night, each with no man advantage goal.
P.K. Subban would put the Preds back in front off a blue line shot from a faceoff win by Colton Sissons 3:32 into the final period, Preds 2 Rangers 1.
Try as the Rangers did to plug away, Pekka Rinne was stout in the net as usual to hold the one-goal advantage into the final minutes of play. After a series of Ranger shots having pulled Henrik Lundqvist at about the one and a half minute mark, Sissons then rifled down an empty netter to make the score 3-1 with 1:24 remaining.
However, the Rangers with their new gritty style of play under Coach Quinn still gave it their all in the final minute. They would get another goal off a deflection by Pavel Buchnevich from a shot by Mika Zibanejad to cut the lead to 3-2 with 35 seconds remaining. Nevertheless, Rinne held off what remained of the late Blueshirt surge to seal the game and the victory in the closing seconds.
Welcome back, guys. This was everything I expected from the opening contest. Very close all the way through, a lot of toughness shown on both sides. I’d rather have a clean game on penalties, but at least no goals were conceded from it. Both teams combined for 69 shots, 45 hits, and 31 blocks in what could have easily been a barn burner but what most importantly gave us a mark in the win column.
Now we’re taking the subway across town to face the Islanders. Hoping for more of the same.