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Mully's Musings: Oct. 7 at Columbus

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
Well, if that was any indication, sit down, strap in, and get ready for a highly entertaining season from the Nashville Predators.

Facing a jacked up Blue Jackets team, the Predators won 3-2 at Nationwide Arena in a scrappy, scrambling season opener. It is clear Nashville’s preseason style – which led to a 7-1-0 record - carried over to the regular season, and the Predators do indeed appear faster and quicker than last year. It wasn’t perfect, and the coaching staff will not be happy with losing so many faceoffs. But two points is two points. Next up is St. Louis on Saturday night, but before we discuss the possibility of back-to-back victories, let’s release the musings…

Three Musings
Special teams solid: Ryan Suter took advantage of the man advantage in the second when he had a power play goal to open the scoring, but Nashville’s penalty kill was equally impressive. Columbus was 0 for 5 on the power play, and Nashville was especially stingy with 7:30 to go after Craig Smith was whistled for hooking. On Columbus’ second power play, the Blue Jackets could not manage one shot.

Rinne key again: Pekka Rinne allowed a fluky goal in the second, but when it mattered most, he was at his best. He made several athletic saves – many coming while sprawled on the ice – and didn’t flinch when the Blue Jackets pressed him in the final minutes. Rinne was also battling flu-like symptoms entering Friday night, but proved once again to be a gamer.

Smith is special: It didn’t take long for the rookie to notch his first NHL regular season goal. With 4:04 remaining in the second, Smith hung around the goal, got a rebound and put it past Columbus goaltender Steve Mason to give Nashville a 2-1 lead. From rookie games to preseason games to regular season games, Smith’s game keeps getting better. He tied a team-high in shots (5) and played 13:27.

An Emerging Line: The line of Cal O'Reilly centering Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo was very effective for the Preds in tonight's game. Beyond combining for the game-winning goal early in the third period, they had high quality scoring chances on three or four different shifts earlier in the game and were probably Nashville's most consistent even-strength line in tonight's game. The coaches rewarded them with ice time as O'Reilly finishing second among team forwards (16:49) and Halischuk third among team forwards (15:35) tonight. Halishcuk and Tootoo were really good in the playoffs last year and seem to have carried that momentum into this season.

Three Stars
1. D Ryan Suter: One goal, one assist, and a few nice battles with Columbus star power-forward Rick Nash
2. G Pekka Rinne: Stopped 32 of 34 shots; at his best late in the third
3. F Craig Smith: Matt Halischuk had the game-winning goal, but Smith deserves the third star, notching a goal and having two other great scoring chances, including one shot clanging off the pipe.

One quote
Suter: “It’s the first game of the year and everyone is ramped up. In the first period we had to weather the storm. We have some young guys with some jets on them.”

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