It will be weeks until anyone knows for sure whether Mike Fisher is the answer to the Nashville Predators’ playoff woes.
Saturday, before a sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena, it was enough simply that the Predators answered go-ahead goals by the Colorado Avalanche. They did so twice — promptly, in fact — and then got the game-winner from defenseman Cody Franson with 2:30 remaining and added an empty-netter by David Legwand for a 5-3 victory.
Fisher, acquired Thursday in a trade with Ottawa, played 18:30 (second among all Nashville forwards), which included time on both the power play and the penalty kill. He won 12 of 16 faceoffs. He also committed a penalty and had three shots on goal.
“Wow, what a player,” forward Patric Hornqvist said. “Great two-way player. Killed penalties. He almost scored two big goals. Yeah, great player. It’s nice having him on our team.”
Fisher’s only point was the secondary when Legwand finally put things out of reach, but it was his screen that contributed to Shea Weber’s goal, which tied it 1-1 at 11:16 of the opening period, just 11 seconds after Colorado scored first.
That was the first time Nashville responded in a contest that was tied three times. The second came at 4:11 of the third period, when Hornqvist made it 3-3 a mere 1:17 after the Avalanche had gone in front again.
“It was definitely a fun and exciting game for me,” Fisher said. “[I had] a lot of nerves early, that’s for sure, but I kind of calmed down and got into it. … You always want to win the first one, and it felt pretty good to get that one.”
Despite all the goals — it was Nashville’s first game since Jan. 16 in which both teams scored at least three — the Predators’ defense actually dominated for much of the contest.
Colorado managed just four shots in the first period, five in the second and 18 for the contest. By comparison, Nashville had 18 in the second period alone and 39 for the game — its highest total since Dec. 28.
Fisher played a part in that as well, consistent with the fact that he was a Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) finalist in 2005-06.
“They didn’t have a lot of shots, but [Fisher] broke up a couple of huge plays,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You can see why he was a Selke finalist a few years back. A real bright guy. … He came in and did a great job for us.”
All in all, therefore, Fisher’s Nashville debut lacked some of the style of Steve Sullivan’s (three goals, one assist against San Jose on Feb. 18, 2004), for example, but it certainly had plenty of substance.
Without a doubt, he was a welcome addition for a team that started the day sixth place in the Western Conference standings, just two points ahead of the team in ninth.
“We’re not going to bring somebody in here who’s not going to fit our system,” Weber said. “I think he fits it great. He’s a great penalty killer and he had a few great shots [Saturday] night. He just couldn’t find the back of the net.
“He played awesome. I think he showed a lot of people that not only is he good offensively, but he’s good defensively. The guy can fly. He skates as fast as anyone I’ve seen in a while, and then he’s willing to back-check and work hard at both ends.”
• Peter Forsberg, in his second NHL game since the 2007-08 season, reminded the Predators why they traded so much to get him for their 2007 playoff run.
• “I’ll tell you what, Peter Forsberg is still dynamite,” Trotz said. “He’s still hard to handle. It’s amazing. [You] don’t play and you’re that hard to handle in the best league in the world.
“I have a lot of admiration for Peter Forsberg. He’s one of those rare, rare athletes that you don’t see too much.”
Forsberg did not have a point against Nashville, but he played 17:32, had two shots on goal, blocked a shot and delivered a hit. He was signed by Colorado on Feb. 6 and made his season debut for that team Friday at Columbus. He played professionally last season in Sweden.
“That’s a guy I always watched growing up and all that,” Hornqvist, a Swedish native, said. “Big honor for me to play against him. He looked good out there, but I feel good for those big two points.”
• Marcel Goc sat out with an upper body injury sustained during last Wednesday’s victory at Detroit.
The center missed six games in October with a separated shoulder, but this injury is not considered as serious.
“He’s just short-term,” Trotz said. “He’ll be ready to go Tuesday [against San Jose].”
• Colorado has now lost seven straight in regulation, the longest such streak since that franchise relocated from Quebec in 1995.
“We’re looking to find ways just to get a win right now,” coach Joe Sacco said.