NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ryan Johansen and the Nashville Predators are off to a solid start this season.
Scoring first has been a big key.
Johansen and P.K. Subban each had two assists, and the Predators beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Monday night for their fifth win in six games.
“It’s early in the season, you’re trying to get your game in order,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Hopefully just continue to get better.”
Craig Smith, Mattias Ekholm, Filip Forsberg and Miikka Salomaki scored for Nashville, and Pekka Rinne finished with 29 saves.
Minnesota lost for the fourth time in five games. Mikko Koivu had a goal and an assist for the Wild, and Matt Dumba also scored.
“Our effort was fine, that looked like the team I’m used to coaching effort-wise,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We made a couple of mistakes and when we did, against that team, it costs you.”
After Smith and Dumba exchanged goals in the first period, Nashville opened a 3-1 lead in the second.
As a penalty on Nashville’s Ryan Ellis was expiring, Johansen began an odd-man rush with Ekholm trailing. From the right faceoff dot, Johansen found Ekholm in the slot, where he beat Alex Stalock with a wrist shot.
Forsberg made it 3-1 at 12:02 of the second. Just inside the Predators’ blue line, Kyle Turris forced a turnover by Eric Staal. Turris then pivoted and found Forsberg at the other blue line with a perfect stretch pass, sending the Swede in on a breakaway for his fourth goal of the season.
“As soon as I stepped on the ice, (Turris) got the puck and I just tried to make sure that he saw me,” Forsberg said. “He made a nice play and I was all alone.”
Stalock finished with 24 saves in his first start of the season.
Koivu’s first goal of the season at 15:03 of the second cut Nashville’s lead to 3-2. Rinne preserved the win by denying Nino Niederreiter on a breakaway with 2:41 remaining.
“It goes both ways and they capitalized on their chances,” Koivu said. “We had some momentum, but it was a step in the right direction tonight.”
Salomaki added an empty-net goal in the final seconds.
Smith put Nashville in front 6:01 into the game. With a tripping minor on Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin in its final seconds, Smith collected the rebound of Subban’s wrist shot from the center of the blue line through traffic and put it past Stalock for his second of the season.
“It was a good start,” Smith said. “Getting the first one is always nice.”
Nashville has scored first in five of six games this season.
Dumba evened the game at 13:29 on the power play. Koivu’s backhand pass from the right corner ricocheted off the stick of Nashville’s Nick Bonino and into the high slot. Coming down from the left point unchecked, Dumba stepped into a slap shot and beat Rinne high on the glove side.
NOTES: Forsberg has four points in his last three games. … Nashville D Yannick Weber played his 400th NHL game. … Stalock is 0-4-0 in his career against Nashville.
Wild: Host Arizona on Tuesday.
Predators: Visit Calgary on Friday.