NASHVILLE, Tenn. — P.K. Subban gave a glimpse in his regular season debut of just how valuable he might be to the Nashville Predators.
Not only did the defenseman acquired in the offseason score the first goal of the season, he even arranged the order of the postgame interviews.
Subban sent Ryan Johansen with his three assists to speak in front of reporters and TV cameras followed by defensive partner Roman Josi. The defenseman finally stepped forward last to take questions himself after helping the Predators open the season by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on Friday night.
“I wanted to get my feet under me, play hard and play physical and just try to do whatever the coaching staff asked me to do,” said Subban, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher March 10 and didn’t play another game last season.
Mike Fisher redirected Josi’s shot late in the second period for the game-winning power-play goal as the Predators got all three goals with the man advantage. Josi had a power-play goal.
Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped a flurry of shots with Chicago on the man advantage over the final 1:46 to preserve the win. He stopped 12 of 13 shots in the third to help Nashville improve to 4-1-1 over its last six season openers.
“It was a great win I mean, and we had to work for it till the end, a full 60 minutes,” Rinne said. “I mean it was a great team win and what a great way to start the season and for our fans, too.”
Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson scored for Chicago, which has lost its first two games this season playing with six rookies in the lineup. The Blackhawks have allowed six power-play goals in their first two games.
“Across the board we need to be better,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “We need to be better with the puck and the discipline as well. We certainly had some opportunities to generate some more.”
Chicago won the season series between these Central Division rivals the past two seasons, including a 3-2 edge last season while finishing third in the Western Conference. Nashville finished fourth in the division and seventh in the West before beating Anaheim in seven games and losing to San Jose in another seven-game series.
But the Predators made a big move June 29, swapping captain Shea Weber to Montreal for another All-Star defenseman in Subban, who is known for his flair.
Subban scored on a slap shot that tied it 1-1, drawing an ovation from the standing room only crowd as he celebrated with his typical flourish. This time, though he celebrated by pretending to throw a lasso like a cowboy in a nod to his former Montreal teammate, goaltender Carey Price.
“I know Price is going to be proud of me,” Subban said. “You know I just get fired up every now and then, just trying to express my emotions.”
The Blackhawks, coming off a 5-2 loss to St. Louis in their season opener in Chicago on Wednesday night, came out with a purpose.
Kruger tapped the puck into an empty net after Rinne was pulled to the side stopping defenseman Ryan Hartman’s rush just 2:39 into the game. The Blackhawks answered Subban’s goal when Hjalmarsson scored off the far post past a screened Rinne midway through the period for a 2-1 lead.
Nashville tied it on Josi’s power-play goal at 16:33 of the first and took its first lead at 16:36 of the second when Fisher tipped in Josi’s shot from the point. The winning goal came with Artem Anisimov in the penalty box for delay of game after clearing the puck over the glass.
Subban showed off his defensive skills as the 2013 Norris Trophy winner, helping protect the lead by breaking up a pass from Nick Schmaltz to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.
Notes: The Predators are 10-7-1 in season openers all-time and 10-6-2 at home. … Hartman played only 1:56 of the first period and didn’t return. … Predators D Anthony Bitetto fought with former Nashville F Jordin Tootoo in the second period and suffered an upper-body injury.
Blackhawks: Hosting Predators on Saturday night.
Predators: Visiting Chicago on Saturday night.