ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Nashville Predators’ trade for Peter Forsberg has gone unchallenged in the franchise’s brief history when it comes to excitement generated and potential impact.
Mike Fisher, acquired in mid-February, had two goals and an assist Wednesday as the Predators opened their Western Conference quarterfinal series with a 4-1 victory of the Anaheim Ducks before a sellout crowd of 17,174 at the Honda Center.
“He showed why we got him — absolutely,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It would be amazing to think if we didn’t make that deal … where we’d be. I don’t think we’d be here. It was huge. He had lots of poise. His line was good.
“That playoff mettle showed.”
The result matched the largest margin of victory in Predators’ playoff history but Fisher’s performance was the single biggest postseason payoff from an in-season acquisition General Manager David Poile and his staff ever have enjoyed.
It was just their second postseason road victory ever, the second straight time and third overall that they opened a series with a victory. They failed to win Game 2 either of the previous times.
“Just finding spots and shooting — and a little bit of luck, I guess,” Fisher, whose three points were a career playoff high, said. “It felt good to get that first [game]. That’s what we were aiming for all week, preparing and now our focus is on [Friday] night and what we need to do to improve and be better.”
To put into perspective what the veteran of 75 playoff games (now 76) did in this contest, consider that Forsberg’s four points (two goals, two assists) in the five-game loss to San Jose that year are the most ever in the playoffs by a Nashville player brought in at or near the trade deadline.
Fisher already is one shy of that mark after one game. He also is now one of only three Predators ever with at least three points in a playoff game — Paul Kariya had four (four assists) in 2006 and David Legwand had three (one goal, two assists) last season against Chicago.
Even Steve Sullivan, who delivered untold thrills immediately after he was acquired in 2004, managed just one goal and one assist in a six-game series with Detroit that year. Sullivan, coincidentally, gave the Predators a 2-0 lead in this one with his first playoff goal since that year.
“I told him before the game this is what he was built for,” Sullivan said. “This is what Mike Fisher does. This is why he’s so highly regarded around the league. When games really count and they’re really on the line, he does it all — power play, penalty killing and big goals. He didn’t disappoint at all.”
Fisher had the primary assist on Shea Weber’s power play goal, which started the scoring just 4:13 into the contest. His first goal made it 3-0 just 2:52 after Sullivan scored and the second — 56 seconds into the third period — pushed the lead to four.
Beyond just the points, he won all five first-period faceoffs he took and eight of 15 overall on a night when Nashville as a team had a success rate of 53 percent in the circle. Nearly seven minutes of his 17:12 of ice time were on special teams.
In short, he did exactly what he was brought in to do.
“Since the trade, the whole time he’s been a really valuable player for us,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “Now he’s scoring a lot of goals too. It’s a great thing for us. He’s our kind of player — he plays strong at both ends of the ice, blocks shots and kills penalties and also scores goals.
“He’s a really valuable player for us.”