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Predators top Wild as Forsberg, Jones get first points

by John Manasso /

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators rookie forward Filip Forsberg is as mild-mannered and polite as they come.

But when Forsberg scored his first NHL goal Tuesday in his eighth career game, he leaped wildly into the glass in celebration.

On a night when he and teammate Seth Jones, another 19-year-old rookie, recorded their first NHL points, the Predators earned their first win of the season in their home opener, a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.

Forsberg laughed a bit when asked if he would celebrate every goal like that.

"We'll see," said Forsberg, the No. 11 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. "This was the first one, but hopefully I have some more in me this season. We'll see."

Predators coach Barry Trotz said he thought the idea of scoring his first goal might have been weighing on Forsberg, who is playing a top-six role with Viktor Stalberg out with a shoulder injury. The Predators have their share of grizzled veterans, like Matt Cullen, 36, and David Legwand and Mike Fisher, each 33, but are relying on key contributions from their two high-profile rookies.

The team takes pleasure in the success of its rookies, Trotz said.

"Any player [who] gets to the National Hockey League, they dream of scoring their first goal, and when they do, it is a time to celebrate," Trotz said. "I think you saw real good emotion from Filip. I know our bench was loving it. They love our two young guys. I think they have success, our team enjoys their having success."

The Predators, in the first game of a six-game homestand, are now 1-2-0.

Predators fans took delight in lustily booing Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who played in Nashville before signing a 13-year, $98 million contract with Minnesota in July 2012, making the win even sweeter for the home crowd.

Goalie Pekka Rinne made 32 saves for his first win.

Minnesota scored the game's first goal but gave up the equalizer on a 5-on-3 a little more than minute later and fell behind just 39 seconds after that while still down a man. The Predators never trailed after the 5:46 mark of the first period.

"That 5-on-3 was extremely frustrating for me," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "I don't want to get into complaining about calls or anything like that, but I thought that was very difficult and -- bang-bang -- two pucks go in the net right away. That was tough, too. That's what it comes down to right now for us to get a win. We need a play here or there. It could be a faceoff, it could be a blocked shot, it could be a save -- obviously, a goal. It's a matter of just finding a way to win."

The Wild remain winless at 0-1-2.

The Predators scored three times in the first period. The first two goals came on power plays and the third on a penalty shot.

The play that led to the penalty shot caused Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom to leave the game with an injury at 11:14 of the first period.

Nashville forward Eric Nystrom got to a loose puck high in Minnesota's zone and outraced Wild defenseman Keith Ballard, who slashed Nystrom from behind. Nystrom was awarded a penalty shot but not before crashing into Backstrom, who appeared to strike his right leg hard against the goal post during the collision.

Josh Harding entered the game cold, and Nystrom's wrist shot high to the blocker side on the ensuing penalty shot put Nashville ahead 3-1.

Nystrom, 30, played for the Wild in 2010-11 and so he had an idea where he wanted to shoot the puck on Harding. He was traded the following season to the Dallas Stars for future considerations after briefly being sent to Houston of the American Hockey League.

"Felt pretty good to get a game-winner, especially against Minnesota," Nystrom said. "That's a team that I kind of had some unfortunate circumstance with and wasn't particularly happy with the way I got treated there. But what better way to score a game-winning goal and help the team win?"

Backstrom had played every minute of the Wild's season to that point. He was 0-0-2 in the first two games. Overall, he has allowed nine goals on 53 shots in 141 minutes.

Yeo said after the game that Backstrom had a lower-body injury but that he didn't know the severity yet. He expects Backstrom to be evaluated on Wednesday.

Nashville struck quickly to take a 2-1 lead, capitalizing on a 5-on-3 situation. The Predators entered without a goal in seven chances on the power play in their first two games, but they made good on each of their first two opportunities Tuesday.

Ten seconds after Zach Parise's third goal of the season at 4:05 of the first period (coming with Jones in the penalty box for high-sticking), Kyle Brodziak was called for interference. Wild center Mikko Koivu was sent off for tripping 21 seconds later.

Forsberg scored his first NHL goal by picking up a loose puck inside the left faceoff circle and whipping the rebound just inside the near goal post at 5:07. Jones earned the secondary assist for his first NHL point.

Colin Wilson skated in from the opposite circle 39 seconds later and roofed a wrist shot over Backstrom.

Minnesota cut the score to 3-2 by converting its second of two power-play chances. With one second left on a hooking penalty to Forsberg, Jared Spurgeon took a cross-ice pass from Nino Niederreiter from deep in the corner and buried a high shot past Rinne from the right side at 7:26.

Nashville's penalty kill has not been great this season, killing just 9 of 13 chances (69 percent), but Rinne said the Predators have had some big kills when they needed them. One such chance came late in the second period when Rich Clune was called for goalie interference on a play that wiped out a goal by the Predators.

"Even though we gave up two [power play] goals, we still killed some huge kills," Rinne said. "I feel like after those first two, our confidence could have been down and we could've been on our heels a little bit, but we didn't. Guys did a really good job with that."

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