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Predators open season with 4-1 win over Ducks

by John Manasso

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz wants his special teams to be better after a lackluster performance last season. He had to be pleased with what he saw Saturday night.

Nashville's power play scored the game-winning goal and the penalty-killers held off Anaheim during a 45-second 5-on-3 advantage as the Predators opened their season with a 4-1 victory at a sold-out Bridgestone Arena.

"We've talked about special teams so much," Trotz said. "The [penalty kill] was outstanding."

Steve Sullivan's power-play goal at 8:33 of the second period broke a 1-1 tie. Sullivan also added an assist and Shea Weber, in his debut as captain, had two assists, including one on Sullivan's goals.

Trotz also cited a goal-saving play by defenseman Ryan Suter, who dove in desperation, blocking Teemu Selanne from scoring into an empty net during an Anaheim power play while the game was tied at 1-1 midway through the second period.

Instead of taking credit for the play, Suter sheepishly said he was out of position.

"Just last resort," he said. "Lucky enough I got it."

The smooth-skating Suter was outstanding in a game-high of 27:07, going plus-1 and earning the primary assist on Sullivan's goal by faking a shot before passing to Sullivan for a one-timer from the left circle.

"It's nice snapping it around a little bit," Suter said of the power play. "It's good. We practiced a lot and practicing is a little different than the game so it was good to get out there and move the puck around."

The only negative for Nashville was that goalie Pekka Rinne had to come out of the game with 17:24 left in the third period. Rinne, who earned the win by making 29 saves, has a lower-body injury, Trotz said, and is day to day.

"I don't expect him to miss much time," Trotz said.

After a scoreless first period, Marcel Goc opened the scoring at 4:10 of the second. Jordin Tootoo banged the puck out of Nashville's zone, Goc chased in down, controlled the bouncing puck in Anaheim's zone and roofed a quick shot past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller for a 1-0 lead.

Anaheim tied the game 1:15 later. The Ducks entered Nashville's zone on a seemingly harmless 3-on-3 rush, but J.P. Dumont blew a defensive assignment, allowing Saku Koivu to skate free towards the slot. Selanne found Koivu, who beat Rinne with a wrister.

After Sullivan's power play goal, Nashville made it 3-1 at 16;12 when Patric Hornqvist, a 30-goal scorer last season who was unable to contribute in the playoffs because of a broken hand he suffered on the eve of the postseason, set up in front of the net and batted the puck past Hiller after Weber threw the puck at the goal and Hornqvist, stationed in front of the net, batted it past Hiller.

David Legwand made it 4-1 with 7:21 left in regulation.

For Anaheim, 11th in the Western Conference last season, the season has begun about as poorly as it possibly can. They have been outscored 8-1 in losing on consecutive nights on the road and lost No. 2 defenseman Andy Sutton on Friday to a broken thumb he suffered in a fight with Detroit's Ruslan Salei.

One of the few bright spots is Hiller, who made 45 saves against Nashville and has stopped 84 of 92 shots (.913 save percentage). Also encouraging was the play of 18-year-old defenseman Cam Fowler, who was even in 21:48 on Saturday.

Otherwise, not much has gone right for the Ducks in their first two games.

"It's tough having to play from behind all the time, but it is only Game 2 right now," new captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "We're a learning team right now and we have to take things out of tonight and go forward with it."

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