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Predators open preseason with 5-3 win over Panthers

NHL.com @NHL
Sergei Kostitsyn set up three goals in the second period and the NHL preseason got started Monday afternoon in historic fashion as the Nashville Predators edged the Florida Panthers 5-3 at BankAtlantic Center in the first game of a doubleheader.

Jani Lajunen had the go-ahead score with 3:11 remaining and Kyle Wilson added an insurance goal with 52 seconds left as the Predators picked up the victory despite being outshot in each period and 34-21 for the game.

The teams were set to face off again -- albeit with fresh rosters -- at 7:30 p.m.

Kostitsyn assisted on scores by Colin Wilson, Chris Mueller and Jonathon Blum to spark the Predators, who are coming off a season in which they won the first playoff series in franchise history.

Young defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and veteran forwards Mark Cullen and Greg Rallo scored for the Panthers in their first game with rookie coach Kevin Dineen behind the bench. Dineen will be looking to get Florida back to the postseason for the first time in 12 years.

Following a scoreless first period in which the Panthers held a 10-5 advantage in shots, the Predators recorded the first goal of the preseason early in the second. Florida defenseman Michael Caruso went off at 1:50 for high-sticking, and Wilson struck just 12 seconds into the man advantage for Nashville.

Kulikov, who has already played 140 NHL games and doesn't turn 21 until late October, drew the Panthers even on a power play at 10:48, but the Predators regained the lead 65 seconds later as Mueller scored. Mueller collected 3 assists in 15 games for Nashville last season.

Blum, who picked up the secondary assist on Wilson's tally, made it 3-1 by scoring the Predators' second power-play goal of the period with 4:20 left in the second. Cullen answered back for the Panthers with 43 seconds remaining and after they came out storming the net in the third Rallo netted the equalizer at the 2:26 mark. Angelo Esposito, a 2007 first-round pick by the Penguins, earned the primary assist.

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