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Nystrom’s opening tally sets the stage for Predators win over San Jose


Dec 15, 2013


For the sixteenth time this season, the Nashville Predators scored the first goal. For the thirteenth time, they won.

After Saturday night’s 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena, the Predators are 13-2-1 when getting the first score.

This time, it was Eric Nystrom who opened scoring at 16:04 of the first period, deflecting a Victor Bartley shot past San Jose netminder Antti Niemi.

“When you score the first goal in the game, it’s really huge in being successful,” Nystrom said. “If you look around the league, I think the numbers are really in favor of scoring the first goal. When we do that, we are a different team. When we get down early, it’s tough to climb back. We are not a high-octane offense. We have to get the first lead and really play hard defensively.”

The goal, Nystrom’s sixth of the season, remained the lone score of the first period. Nashville went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead. Prior to the game, the Predators were 11-0-1 when leading after the first period. With the win, the team improved to 12-0-1.

Nashville also increased the lead to two goals as they rode a Roman Josi power-play goal to a 2-0 lead at the second intermission.

“What does that tell you?” Nystrom said. “We need to lead after two periods.”

Brought in during the offseason as a free agent, Nystrom has never been known for his scoring prowess, but is currently one off of the team’s goal-scoring lead. Much like his teammate Patric Hornqvist, Nystrom tends to play a lot of his game in front of the net and credits his teammate Mike Fisher for helping his scoring output.

“In the past few years, I’ve been able to put pucks on the net,” Nystrom said. “Obviously playing a lot of minutes and playing with (Mike Fisher) who is a right-handed centerman who dishes the puck well, it’s been really nice and it’s been good to get a couple of breaks.”

“I’m nothing fancy,” Nystrom added. “My goals are just me going to the net. I’m willing to shoot the puck and that’s part of it, but they just like hard work here. It’s a simple formula. If you go out and do what they want you to do and do it as hard as you can, you’re going to get rewarded. It’s obviously nice when the puck goes into the net.”

San Jose had two penalty kills on the night, but were unable on either despite unleashing six shots on Nashville’s Carter Hutton. Nystrom played a mind boggling 21:50 on Saturday night, including 1:32 on the penalty kill. During one kill, Nystrom single-handedly stopped a Sharks chance by flipping a puck off of Tomas Hertl’s stick and back into San Jose’s defensive zone.

“Penalty killing is one of my fortes for sure,” Nystrom said. “I take a lot of pride in it, as do (Paul Gaustad), (Matt) Hendricks and (Mike Fisher). We take a lot of pride in being penalty killers. That’s our job – it’s our livelihood. We’ve done a really good job. It was a really big test for us tonight and we came up with some really big kills.”

Dan Boyle finally broke past Hutton at 7:28 of the third period, closing Nashville’s gap to just a single goal. Viktor Stalberg put Nashville back up by two, while Patrick Marleau scored a late goal to close the gap.

San Jose put a grand total of 20 shots on net in the third period, but were unable to claw back into the game.

“They are a very good team who can turn up the intensity very quick,” Nystrom said. “At the same time, we got on our heels a little and you try to play to protect the lead instead of going after it and trying to score that next goal. We got a huge timely goal by (Viktor) Stalberg, which was clutch and they scored that late one.”

“There was no doubt that we were going to shut the door. Our goalie played huge and it was a big win for us.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua