NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In a season opener delayed three months by the COVID-19 pandemic, everything was different at Bridgestone Arena. But it was the consistent goal-scoring threat of Filip Forsberg that delivered the game-winner for a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jackets.
It was a celebratory night of hockey just being played amid the global circumstances, but also a surreal scene with only about 300 family members and invited guests in an arena that was only slightly louder than it has been as it sat empty for the last 315 days since the NHL originally paused last March.
With just 10 days of practice under their belt, the Predators played their first game of any kind, exactly five months and a week after their disappointing exit from the NHL playoff bubble in Edmonton at the hands of Arizona in the opening round, with seven new players in the starting lineup and someone other than Pekka Rinne starting between the pipes in the opener for the first time since 2009.
Juuse Saros got the call, much like he did in the postseason last year, and stopped 29 shots in the win. Newcomer Luke Kunin tied the game in the second period, placing his wrister over the shoulder of Joonas Korpisalo on a two on one breakaway, that was set up by the assist of fellow newcomer Eric Haula.
Another new guy Brad Richardson gathered a puck in the defensive zone in the third period and shoveled it ahead to Forsberg who left two Blue Jackets in his wake and fired a shot by Korpisalo for the go-ahead goal with 14:12 to play.
Calle Jarnkrok added an empty-netter in the closing minutes to provide the final margin as Nashville starts with a win on night one of what will be a 56 game sprint towards the playoffs this season in the NHL.
The race continues Saturday night as these same two teams meet again at Bridgestone Arena at seven o’clock.