The Nashville Predators got off to a fast start, but it took a long time to finish their season-opener. That wait wasn’t worth it.
Martin Erat scored 39 seconds after the opening faceoff, but the Predators ultimately lost in a shootout, 3-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
“We’re excited to be back,” captain Shea Weber said. “I think you saw the enthusiasm and the energy right away. The building was electric and we really fed off that. Obviously, it helped us get the lead.”
Following Erat’s goal, the teams traded power-play goals before the end of the first period. Ryan Ellis scored for the Predators 1:48 after the Blue Jackets had tied it. Columbus got even again with 7:55 to play in the second period and it remained 2-2 through the end of regulation and the five-minute overtime period.
Sergei Kostitsyn assisted on both Nashville goals.
“You’re never going to simulate games in practice,” Erat said. “… The game is totally different. You have to get used to it and every game is going to get better. We have to just battle through the first couple games.”
The season was scheduled to start but more than three months ago but was delayed because NHL owners locked out players while the sides negotiated a collective bargaining agreement. The protracted talks left time for only a six-day training camp with no preseason contests prior to Saturday, the first day of the 48-game regular season on which 26 of the league’s 30 teams played.
Nashville and Columbus were the only ones to play beyond regulation. Not only did they make it to the shootout, it was in the sixth round that Columbus’ Derick Brassard beat goalie Pekka Rinne, which became the decisive tally when Craig Smith failed to answer.
The game included two fights plus one set of coincidental roughing minors. The final shot total was 34-28 in Nashville’s favor.
“We didn’t have any exhibitions so I knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride and it sort of was [Saturday] night,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You’re getting your group sort of back together and then you go through spells of 10 minutes where the other team has some pressure on.
“That’s part of the 48-game season. That’s going to happen.”