Nashville Goal Scorers: Bourque (3:07, 2nd) Assists: Forsberg, Ellis
Watson (8:22, 2nd) Assist: Smith
The Nashville Predators opened the first of two preseason games at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night with a 2-0 shutout victory over the New York Islanders.
Pekka Rinne, playing in his first game of the preseason, turned aside 13 shots through two periods, while Carter Hutton stopped all 12 shots in the final frame to secure the double-team shutout for Nashville.
After a scoreless first period that saw Rich Clune and Matt Hendricks both drop the gloves, Nashville transitioned its game from setting a physical tone to putting shots on goal.
Gabriel Bourque opened the scoring for the Preds, after receiving a nice pass from Filip Forsberg along the wall. Forsberg and Ryan Ellis both battled for the puck along the wall, keeping the play alive, before Forsberg found Bourque in the slot who made a nice move around New York’s Anders Nilsson for the goal. Five minutes later, Craig Smith battled to break up a play in the Islanders’ zone, and the loose puck trickled right to Austin Watson who beat Nilsson under his leg pad for his first of the preseason.
The Islanders turned up the heat in the third, firing 12 shots on goal, nearly doubling their two-period total, but it was too little too late for the Isles. Nashville now holds a 1-2-1 record in the preseason.
Three Big Things:
He’s Back: After sitting out the first three preseason games, goaltender Pekka Rinne turned aside all 13 shots faced to earn First Star of the Game honors. Rinne was slated to play last Thursday in Tampa, but was held out one more game. Despite facing just 13 shots tonight, Rinne’s performance should silence any doubt about his health, and his workload should continue to increase throughout the final three preseason tilts.
Ellis Looks Good: Third-year defenseman Ryan Ellis stood out from the crowd on Sunday night, as he jumped up into the play on multiple occasions and battled to create offensive chances. Ellis’ offensive skill has never been questioned, but his willingness to jump up offensively has left deficiencies in his defensive game in past seasons, but that was not the case on Sunday. While Ellis was creating chances, he was also solid in his own end, earning a +2 rating on the night.
Setting a tone: Head Coach Barry Trotz said he wants his Predators to be “Entertainment Tax Collectors” this season, and that was a theme the Preds carried into free agency with the acquisitions of Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom. For the first time tonight, Hendricks dropped the gloves and proved to the Nashville faithful he’s a leader on this team and he’s certainly not a player to be messed with. Rich Clune also dropped the gloves for the Preds as both players set the physical tone early. Nystrom was not in the line-up on Sunday, but his ability to get under his opponents skin will be a trait that Preds fans will come to enjoy.
Head Coach Barry Trotz on Pekka’s performance in tonight’s game…
My heart jumped about seven seconds into the game. I laughed after the second period when he came off during the time out and I said to him that ‘you’re hip tested good, you got ran over and you’re following the corner, and you’ve got those shots. That’s pretty good for the confidence.’ It was good to have him back in. He’s one of the best in the league so, having him back in the net makes a very different team for us. Being back at home was important too.
Pekka Rinne on making his way toward 100 percent health/game readiness…
I think the whole time I’ve just been trying to focus on making the most of it, but I understand I have before the season, for sure it was a different kind of summer, but at the same time, you try to make the most of it. I feel like the last month or so has been really good for me to work a lot on the ice and off the ice. I’m not going to look back and worry about what I couldn’t do in June or July. I feel good and I’m sure I’ll be better than 100 percent when the season starts.
Seth Jones on getting a sense of the home crowd…
I’ve heard a lot about the fans here and the atmosphere, and they definitely showed it tonight. They were in it, and they made our lives a lot easier.