Kyle Turris recorded a goal and an assist in his debut, and the Nashville Predators defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. The victory is Nashville's fourth consecutive, giving them nine wins and 20 points on the season.
A back-and-forth contest had a bit of everything - goals, saves and the animosity one might expect between two clubs that fought for the Stanley Cup last spring. In the end, it was Nashville who converted in the shootout, and if it weren't for the contributions of their new star, they wouldn't have even had the opportunity.
"It felt great," Turris said of his first game in Nashville. "The crowd was awesome and it was a lot of fun being out there."
"We all knew the opponent, we all knew what happened last year," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "There is nothing that is going to change from last year. You move forward from that, but we certainly know they're two-time Stanley Cup champions in the last two years… We were coming off three games on the road where we were able to be successful, and we wanted to keep that going in the right direction. I was happy with the way we played."
After Pittsburgh carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, the Predators exploded for three goals in the first six minutes of the second period. Turris started it off, followed up by power-play goals from P.K. Subban and Craig Smith.
Video: PIT@NSH: Smith nets carom for power-play goal
But before the second period was out, Phil Kessel brought Pittsburgh to within one, and then Jake Guentzel tied the game early in the third on a breakaway.
Shortly after that, Turris found Calle Jarnkrok in the slot, and the Swede performed a beautiful toe drag and went top shelf on Tristan Jarry to regain the lead once more. It didn't last long, as Brian Dumoulin scored the final goal of regulation to send the game to overtime tied 4-4.
After the extra session solved nothing, Kevin Fiala and Filip Forsberg scored in the shootout and Pekka Rinne turned aside Kris Letang to end it and give Nashville the win.
And although the victory may have meant a little extra to the Smashville faithful, as far as the Preds are concerned, it was just another two points on their quest for something greater.
"Last year's in the past and we're moving forward," Smith said. "We're creating something new, something special again so, it only adds to it. It's points and we're doing something in the right direction."
Video: PIT@NSH: Turris pots snap shot off Salomaki's feed
Welcome to Smashville:
If first impressions are everything, then Kyle Turris did a number with his new club on Saturday night.
Turris tallied his first as a Pred just over two minutes into the second period, helped by a slick pass from Miikka Salomaki to find the newly acquired centerman all alone in the slot. He then added a primary assist on Calle Jarnkrok's goal, and although his attempt in the shootout missed high, it did nothing to damper the evening.
"It's nice to get the nerves out of the way," Turris said on scoring his first goal with the Preds. "It was a lot of fun. The crowd was loud and there was a lot of energy in the building. It was an exciting game."
"I think it is going to take some time for him to get used to everything," Filip Forsberg said of Turris, "but if he played this well in the first game, I'm excited to see what else he's got."
Video: PIT@NSH: Jarnkrok fakes defender, roofs puck
And it wasn't just the goal from Turris that impressed coaches and teammates alike in his debut. Just as Laviolette predicted earlier in the week: Turris made those around him better as well.
The line of Turris with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala was all over the ice with the two wingers having arguably their best games of the season.
"I think it just shows his versatility to be able to score goals or be able to make plays," Laviolette said of Turris. "The play that he made to set up the goal was nice as well. Sometimes it is difficult to jump in on a new team. You get here with new teammates, a new system, you're playing in front of your home crowd for the first time, and sometimes that can be overwhelming. I thought he was excellent. I also thought it might've been Craig Smith's best game of the year, and I thought Kevin Fiala played really well."
While every night may not go as well as the first one did, Turris appears to be capable of delivering just what General Manager David Poile and his staff had hoped - wins.
"[I'm] just playing hockey; not thinking too much and getting comfortable with my linemates," Turris said. "Just playing."
Video: Balanced offense leads Predators to 5-4 shootout win
Kyle Turris became the first Preds player to score in his debut since Cody McLeod did so last season. Scott Hartnell also scored in his "second" Nashville debut when he tallied on Opening Night this season.
Hartnell left Saturday's game in the first period and did not return. Laviolette did not have an update on Hartnell's status postgame.
Prior to Saturday's game, forward Frederick Gaudreau was assigned to Milwaukee of the AHL, while Pontus Aberg was sent on a conditioning assignment.
The Predators will host former head coach Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena before heading to Minnesota on Thursday for a one-game trip.