Winning with the star centre will have to wait a couple more days.
Marian Gaborik broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal at 11:59 of the third period, as the Minnesota Wild ruined Forsberg’s Nashville debut with a 4-1 victory over the Predators on Saturday night.
“Obviously, there is a lot of hype with Forsberg being here,” Minnesota forward Brian Rolston said. “It was a huge win for our team. That win should give us a lot of confidence as a team, especially playing against a good, good hockey team like they have over there.”
Gaborik also had an assist, Pavol Demitra added a power-play goal and an assist and Branko Radivojevic had a late goal as Minnesota won the season series 3-1. Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored on a penalty shot with 4:48 left.
Nashville came in with 81 points and atop the Western Conference but only a point ahead of Detroit in the Central Division. Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout loss boosted the Sabres’ lead over the Predators to two points for the overall NHL lead.
However, they lost their second straight and sixth in 11 games since the all-star break. Detroit’s 4-1 win over Phoenix moved the Red Wings back to first in the West, and dropped Nashville to the fourth seed – behind the conference’s other division leaders.
“There’s no such thing as panic time,” Nashville right wing Steve Sullivan said. “We know what’s in this dressing room. We know what’s got to be done. It’s just a matter of going out and playing to our strengths, and our skill will take over.”
The Predators put Forsberg into the starting lineup to help introduce him so Nashville could welcome the former MVP properly since he helped sell out this game in the past 48 hours. They responded with a roaring ovation before the faceoff, and started chanting “Welcome Forsberg” in the opening minutes.
Forsberg, who has scored 23 points in 14 career games against Minnesota, couldn’t help, while paired with former Colorado teammate Paul Kariya and Martin Erat. Forsberg spent Friday packing and flying into Nashville and didn’t get much time to skate Saturday morning.
He said it was a little tough after the past couple days.
“I was a little tired at the beginning there. Like I said, I was trying to make it a little too complicated, and I’m playing with a great line. So, there isn’t any reason at all we shouldn’t be good next game,” Forsberg said.
The Predators’ lone goal came from J.P. Dumont in the first period even though they outshot Minnesota 26-22.
Niklas Backstrom improved to 6-1-1 in place of injured goalie Manny Fernandez.
The Predators said Forsberg wouldn’t have agreed to the trade that sent two players and two draft picks to the Flyers if his surgically repaired right foot wasn’t healthy. He played 19 minutes, 32 seconds with 25 shifts, took one shot and won 11 faceoffs.
His best chance to score may have been in the first period when he just missed a puck near the crease with Backstrom sprawled to the other side.
Nashville, which lost 1-0 at St. Louis on Friday night, took a 1-0 lead on Dumont’s goal on a slap shot from the left circle at 9:38.
Demitra tied the game with a rare power-play goal against a Nashville unit that is third in the NHL in penalty-killing. The Predators had killed 42 of 45 penalties over the previous 10 games but gave the Wild the man-advantage three times in the second period.
They got only two power plays themselves and now are 0-of-15 with the man-advantage over the past four games.
Ryan Suter drew a delay of game penalty for putting the puck over the glass 74 seconds into the second. Six seconds later, Demitra put a wrister past Vokoun for his fourth goal in four games.
But Gaborik scored the game-winner with his 18th goal this season Demitra passed him the puck from behind the net.
The Wild sealed the victory when Bouchard was awarded his second career penalty shot. He was driving toward the net with Nashville defenceman Vitaly Vishnevski and centre Jason Arnott trying to get the puck, then he easily beat goalie Tomas Vokoun for the 3-1 lead.
Notes: Nashville captain Kimmo Timonen was scratched with an upper body injury, and team officials said he was day-to-day. He leads the Predators in average time on the ice, and he’s the team’s top scoring defenceman. … Nashville coach Barry Trotz coached his 634th game and tied Michael Bergeron of Quebec and Scotty Bowman during his tenure with Montreal for 17th all-time for most games coached with the same team. … Demitra extended his points streak to eight straight games with a goal, giving him six goals, seven assists for 13 points.