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Bucky Dent / The Sports Xchange, Published October 08 2013

Moorhead's Cullen gets an assist as Predators edge Wild

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Matt Cullen was held without a goal. But he still managed to help his new team defeat his former team.

Cullen tallied an assist as the Nashville Predators defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Tuesday in the Predators’ home opener at sold-out Bridgestone Arena.

Cullen, a Moorhead High School graduate, played the previous three seasons with the Wild. But he left Minnesota in free agency during the summer, signing with the Predators.

Two highly touted rookies – center Filip Forsberg and defenseman Seth Jones – got on an NHL scoresheet for the first time for the Predators. One of their key offseason acquisitions – left wing Eric Nystrom – potted his first goal for the team in a dramatic moment.

Nashville scored all three of its goals in a 6-minute, 7-second span of the first period.

Pekka Rinne’s 32 saves – including a pad stop on a slapper from former Predators defenseman Ryan Suter with 18 seconds left – enabled the early outburst to stand up as Nashville (1-2-0) bounced back from losses at St. Louis and Colorado.

“You’ve got to have a little success to have confidence,” Predators coach Barry Trotzsaid. “If you don’t have success, you tend to play cautious. I think you’re going to find that this team has lots of good qualities.”

For a brief stretch of the first period, Nashville had the offense it sorely lacked last year, when it missed the playoffs for just the second time in nine seasons.

With Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak and Mikko Koivu in the penalty box for interference and tripping, respectively, the Predators tied it 1-1 on Forsberg’s first NHL goal, a rebound from the left faceoff circle at 5:07.

The 19-year old Forsberg further energized the crowd of 17,196 by jumping into the glass to celebrate his big moment. Jones, the team’s first round pick in June’s entry draft, drew the second assist for his first NHL point.

“It was a pretty lucky bounce,” he said. “I was just waiting for the puck, and it came right on my stick. It was an easy one, but a good one to have.”

Colin Wilson’s wrist shot from the right faceoff circle whizzed over goaltender Niklas Backstrom’s stick 39 seconds later, giving Nashville its first lead of the season.

Backstrom then left the game at 11:14 of the period when he injured his right leg after it was slammed into the goal post. Defenseman Keith Ballard slashed Eric Nystrom on a breakaway and Nystrom careened into Backstrom.

Backstrom, who tied for the NHL lead in wins last year with 24, got up after a couple of minutes and skated slowly off the ice and into the locker room. Coach Mike Yeo said after the game that Backstrom would be evaluated today but offered no further specifics on the injury.

Awarded the first penalty shot of his career, Nystrom, who signed as a free agent July 5 after playing for Dallas the last two seasons, beat backup Josh Harding with a wrist shot over Harding’s left shoulder for his first Predators goal.

“He went in cold, and the first shot he had to face was a penalty shot,” Nystrom said, “so that was pretty unfortunate for Minnesota.”

Minnesota 1 1 0 – 2

Nashville 3 0 0 – 3

First period: 1, Minnesota, Parise 3 (Koivu, Suter), 4:05 (pp). 2, Nashville, Forsberg 1 (Hornqvist, Jones), 5:07 (pp). 3, Nashville, Wilson 1 (Cullen, Fisher), 5:46 (pp). 4, Nashville, Nystrom 1 (penalty shot), 11:14.

Second period: 5, Minnesota, Spurgeon 1 (Niederreiter, Granlund), 7:26 (pp).

Shots on Goal – Minnesota 13-12-9 – 34. Nashville 10-4-11 – 25.

Goalies: Minnesota, Backstrom, Harding. Nashville, Rinne. A – 17,196 (17,113). T – 2:43.