Good things come to those who wait, and for the first time in the post-lockout era the Nashville Predators took their time getting the offense cranked up.
The result was almost as good as it gets – a season-opening 4-1 victory Saturday over the Anaheim Ducks before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena in which many of their top players performed up to expectations.
Things did take a turn for the worse when goalie Pekka Rinne got run over 1:25 into the third period and was forced to leave the contest 71 seconds later. Rookie Anders Lindback replaced him, stopped all seven shots he faced and protected the lead all the way to the finish.
“(Rinne) waved over after the collision,” coach Barry Trotz said. “One of the guys said Pekks might be coming out so we just told Lindback to start stretching.
“It was good for (Lindback). A young kid, (he) got in there … and I thought he fared really well.”
Marcel Goc’s goal 4:10 after the first intermission kicked off a three-goal second period, which included a goal and an assist by Steve Sullivan, two assists by Shea Weber and a goal by last season’s top scorer, Patric Hornqvist and put the Predators ahead to stay.
In every other season beginning with 2005-06, Nashville got its first goal within the first 10 minutes and often very early within that timeframe. The quickest was in 2006, when J.P. Dumont made it 1-0 lead 39 seconds into a game they eventually lost 8-6 to Chicago.
Last season Jason Arnott scored just 1:48 into the opener at Dallas, which was 15 seconds earlier than when Suter got the first of 2008-09. Arnott also struck early in 2007 (4:31). The whole thing started when Jukka Hentunen found the net 8:24 into the 2005-06 opener.
“We were playing well, it’s not like it wasn’t going well for us,” Sullivan said. “We were playing in their end. We were getting a lot of scoring chances. It was just a matter of time.
“I don’t think 25, 28 or 29 minutes is that long.”
It didn’t take Anaheim long after Goc’s goal to get one of its own. Saku Koivu tied it 1-1 at 5:25 of the second when he rifled a shot under the crossbar on a rush.
However, the Ducks’ wait for their season-starter must have seemed interminable. They actually opened their season a night earlier at Detroit and were shut out 4-0.
“I think we hit four crossbars (Saturday) night,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “It was like anything we were directing at the net either hit their goalie and he made the stop, or we rang it off the post.”
Now, for Nashville, the wait begins to see how long Rinne will be out with what has been called a “lower body” injury.
The Predators don’t play again until Wednesday when they travel to Chicago to face the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks. They’re back home the night after that to play St. Louis.
“(Rinne) is day-to-day,” Trotz said. “I don’t expect him to miss much time. We probably will recall a goaltender for a day or two, just to see where he’s at, but I … know it’s not anything major.”
• Lindback’s parents were in town from his native Sweden helping the 22-year-old get settled and, therefore, were on hand to see his NHL debut.
“I think I left some bad rebounds out there, but I managed to recover,” Lindback said. “Confidence-wise, I felt good and the team was doing really well in front of me. So I felt pretty safe with those guys.”
• Francis Bouillon was an unlikely participant in the Predators’ first fight of the season. The 5-foot-8, 198-pound defenseman dropped gloves with Anaheim’s Troy Bodie, who was eight inches taller, at 11:05 of the first period.
It was Bouillon’s first fight with Nashville and first since Feb. 9, 2009, when he played with Montreal.
• Forwards Sergei Kostitsyn (foot) and Jamie Lundmark (groin) opened the season on injured reserve. Forward Wade Belak and defenseman Alexander Sulzer were scratched.