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Predators hold off Hurricanes to win opener

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Rookie forward Viktor Arvidsson's first NHL goal proved to be the game-winner in the Nashville Predators' season-opening 2-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

After Craig Smith's early power-play goal put Nashville ahead, Arvidsson gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 17:03 of the first period when he redirected a shot by defenseman Seth Jones past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward.

"It hit my leg, so I knew straightaway when it went in that I scored," Arvidsson said. "It was a good shot, and [linemate Calle Jarnkrok] tipped it on my leg so it was a little bit lucky, but it's a goal."

It was the first NHL goal and point for Arvidsson, who played six games for Nashville last season.

"That line was good," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "They were generating a lot of offense. I think that's important for our group to get balanced scoring from all three lines. This is a kid that works really hard. He worked really hard last year, came over, learned the game and then in his first opportunity tonight he was able to score a big goal for us."

Carolina forward Eric Staal made it 2-1 at 18:20 of the third period when his pass to the slot from the right-wing corner hit Nashville defenseman Shea Weber's skate and went past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. The Hurricanes controlled play after Staal scored but were unable to get another shot on Rinne before time ran out.

"We want to keep playing forward," Weber said. "I think our style is to take it to the other team [and] use our speed and skill to the advantage. We just kind of got to sitting back."

Jones had two assists and Rinne finished with 25 saves for Nashville. Ward made 23 saves.

"We did a really good job overall throughout the night," Rinne said. "We didn't give them too much. At the end there in those situations, it's really important to get the two points. At the same time, we've got to really bear down those situations where we don't give teams any life."

Nashville dominated early, and Smith gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 2:23 of the first period when he scored a power-play goal. With Jordan Staal in the penalty box, defenseman Ryan Ellis took a shot from the left point and Smith redirected the puck past Ward.

"It was a great start," Smith said. "I thought we were moving our feet. We were playing with some tenacity. Obviously the shots on the board showed that but our attempts as well. Our mindset was to get moving in straight lines and shoot the puck, and I thought we did a great job."

The Predators felt like they sat back too much in the second and third periods. They outshot Carolina 14-5 in the first period and but were outshot 9-8 in the second period and 12-3 in the third.

"I think maybe we got a little comfortable after the first period," Jones said. "We played great hockey in the first, but we let off the gas for sure. We knew they weren't going to give up, but we let off the gas. [Rinne] made some huge saves for us, and we got some timely bounces."

Carolina was happy with its game in the second and third periods. The Hurricanes were able to create more zone time but weren't able to solve Rinne until late in the game.

"We were on our heels a little bit early, for what reason, I'm not sure," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "Credit to Nashville, they came out hard. We didn't handle the forecheck pressure as well as we would have liked. Once we settled down and played, we were fine."

Defenseman Noah Hanifin made his NHL debut for the Hurricanes. Hanifin, the fifth player and first defenseman taken in the 2015 NHL Draft, played 18:06, blocked a shot and finished with a minus-1 rating.

Hurricanes defenseman James Wisniewski left the ice in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Wisniewski was tangled up along the boards and appeared to be favoring his knee when he went down to the ice. There was no update on Wisniewski's injury after the game.

"I haven't heard," Peters said. "Hopefully [it's] not serious."

Carolina will host the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville will host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

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