It was not a home run, but when Patric Hornqvist swung Saturday night he made contact and the Nashville Predators scored.
Hornqvist’s first goal of the season came at 16:12 of the second period when he knocked a puck out of mid-air and into the Anaheim net.
“You have to be a little patient there,” he said. “Of course, I got a little lucky, but I practice a lot on those things. The more you practice … sometimes those things go in. (Saturday) was one of those nights you get a little lucky.
“But if you go in front of the net, you know you’re going to end up getting a little lucky some nights.”
It was similar to what Hornqvist did much of last season, when he scored a team-high 30 goals and became the first Predators’ draft pick (the fourth Nashville player ever) to get at least that many in a single season.
No, he didn’t make a habit of picking pucks out of the air in his first full NHL season. He did spend a lot of time in front of the net, though, and with his play in the seasn-opening 4-1 victory over the Ducks he proved he’s prepared to do the same this season.
His goal made it 3-1, but it was his presence in front of the net nearly eight minutes earlier that led to Steve Sullivan’s game-winner, a power play goal which broke a 1-1 tie and put Nashville ahead to stay.
“They passed it to (Sullivan) on the side and I got to keep following the puck,” Hornqvist said. “It went through my legs and into the net. It was a big goal for us.”
It was their one power-play goal of the contest (on seven attempts), which matched the number they had in their entire six-game playoff series (27 attempts) against the Chicago Blackhawks last spring.
That followed a regular season in which they converted just 47 times with the man-advantage, their fewest since 2001-02 and their fewest ever in a playoff year.
Whether or not they continue to be productive on the power play remains to be seen. It’s a sure bet, though, that opposing goalies can expect to see Hornqvist nearby … regardless of the situation.
“I try to go there and, of course, the defensemen try to get me out of the way,” Honrqvist said. “Some nights it’s easier than others, and (Saturday) was a good night for us.”
• The Predators play their first road game of the season Wednesday at Chicago (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
Of course, the last time they were there they lost a heartbreaker, 5-4 in overtime, in the critical fifth game of the playoff series.
“Every year is a new year and they were the … team that knocked us out,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re going to go in there, and right now we need points. Chicago is still an elite team.
“… I don’t know if we had come back here 3-2 (in games) if we would have won that series or not, … but I’d like to have found that out.”
• As expected, goalie Mark Dekanich was recalled from Milwaukee as insurance because of the lower body injury sustained by starter Pekka Rinne on Saturday.
He has played in two games for Milwaukee this season and has a 1-0-0 record with a 1.22 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage.
• Martin Erat will not be with the team in Chicago because of back pain, which has been an issue since training camp.
Erat never has played all 82 games in a season, but he has played more than 70 in six of his seven full NHL seasons.