NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Eric Nystrom almost felt sorry for Wild goalie Josh Harding coming off the bench to defend a penalty shot.
Nystrom scored his first career penalty shot at 11:14 of the first period for the game-winner Tuesday night and the Nashville Predators earned their first win of the season with a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild in their home opener.
“You couldn’t have scripted it any better to score a goal like that, kind of dramatic fashion and ended up being the game winner against your former team,” Nystrom said. “It was pretty exciting. It was fun to play here and get our first win of the season.”
Nystrom spent the 2010-11 season with Minnesota and said he had some “unfortunate circumstances” with the team.
He went to Dallas and signed with Nashville this off-season. He got the penalty shot when tripped on a breakaway, sending him crashing into Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.
The goalie left the game with a lower body injury, and the Wild said Backstrom will be evaluated Wednesday. Wild coach Mike Yeo said he hadn’t talked to the trainer yet when he spoke with reporters after the game.
That left Nystrom with a couple of minutes waiting to shoot, but the Predators forward had plenty of experience shooting against replacement Josh Harding during his lone year with the Wild.
“He goes in and his first shot against is a penalty shot ice-cold, that’s a tough situation for any goalie,” Nystrom said. “But it felt pretty good.”
Filip Forsberg and Colin Wilson also scored power-play goals 39 seconds apart in the first period as the Predators matched the goals they had totalled in losing the first two games.
Goalie Pekka Rinne made 32 saves as Nashville started a five-game homestand with the win.
“It’s always nice to win the first one and try to build some confidence, some good things and keep moving forward when we’re at home because we’re going to be on the road quite a while,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said.
Zach Parise scored a power-play goal, and Jared Spurgeon also scored for the Wild who remain winless through three games.
“We’ve got to find a way to win,” Wild defenceman Keith Ballard said.
Now that these teams are in the Central Division after realignment, these games mean much more than just the chance to boo former Nashville defenceman Ryan Suter who went to Minnesota as a free agent in July 2012 for a 13-year, $98 million deal. A sellout crowd booed Suter every time he was on the ice yet again.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Suter told him he thought his old coach liked him. Trotz responded that he has no control over the fans in Section 303.
“He’s playing for the enemy now,” Trotz said.
The Wild went up 1-0 on a tip-in by Parise off a shot by Mikko Koivu off a cross-ice pass from Suter, taking advantage of a high-sticking penalty on rookie defenceman Seth Jones at 4:15 of the first.
But Kyle Brodziak went to the penalty box for interference against David Legwand at 4:15 followed by Koivu for tripping Jones 21 seconds later.
The Predators made the Wild pay for the 5-on-3 with Forsberg scoring his first career NHL goal at 5:07 on a snap shot from the left circle off assists from Patric Hornqvist and Jones, with the rookie getting his first point.
“He’s got those magic hands,” Trotz said of Forsberg. “He’s slippery in tight spaces and as he keeps growing as a player I think you’re going to see some of those qualities come out.”
Then Wilson went high over Backstrom’s stick for his first goal of the season from the right circle at 5:46 for a 2-1 lead.
Ballard tripped Nystrom on a breakaway, and the Predators forward crashed into Backstrom, pushing the goalie’s right leg into the post.
A trainer walked out to Backstrom, who skated slowly to the bench before going to the locker room. Backstrom tied for the NHL lead with 24 wins last season and is Minnesota’s franchise leader in wins, shutouts, shutout streak, games played, starts and minutes played.
“I give Harding credit,” Yeo said. “That’s a really difficult situation to come into and giving up the goal that way, and then he battled hard all game in net.
“So I give him an awful lot of credit and I give our guys credit too because it would have been easy to feel sorry for ourselves.”
The Wild pulled within 3-2 when Spurgeon scored his first this season on a power play with a wrister past Rinne at 7:26, and his goal came with 1 second left on the man advantage after Forsberg went to the box for hooking.
But the Wild couldn’t beat Rinne again.
Notes: The Predators are 2 for 11 with the man advantage this season. … Nashville last scored three goals in a period April 2, 2013, against Colorado in the third period. … Nashville went 7-1-3 last season when leading after the first period. … Nystrom’s penalty shot was the ninth in Predators’ history and his first goal for Nashville. … Koivu’s assist gave him 400 career NHL points. … Seven of the past eight games between these teams have been one-goal games. … Harding is 1 for 2 against penalty shots in his career.