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Nashville fails to impress in their own home opener…

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Sometimes you wonder how a team can go on the road and skate away with four points and then come back to play in front of their own fans and play lackluster hockey.

Tonight is one of those times.

After going into Columbus and St. Louis and taking those home openers, the Nashville Predators came back to the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena and tanked their own.

In front of a reported 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena, the Preds dropped their first contest of the 2011-12 campaign, falling to 2-1-0. The visiting Phoenix Coyotes came into Music City and skated away with a 5-2 victory, their first of the season.

Pekka Rinne had a night he’d like to have back as he allowed four Coyotes goals in the first 30 minutes of action. For perspective, he allowed just as many goals tonight as he had in the first two games of the season combined.

But the goals weren’t all Rinne’s fault. There was plenty of blame to go around.

“I think it was just the fact that in our first home game we came out flat,” Ryan Suter said. “We kind of dug ourselves into a hole and couldn’t really get out.”

They most certainly did.

The Coyotes got the scoring going when, just after their power play had expired, David Schlemko slid a wrist shot under a diving Rinne. Just moments later, 1991 second round pick Ray Whitney took the puck at the blueline and rocketed a shot past a partially screened Rinne to make it 2-0, Phoenix.

The Predators would head to the locker room down 3-0 after Lauri Korpikoski backhanded a shot up and the sprawling goaltender.

Things wouldn’t be any better in the middle frame however as Mikkel Boedker found a rebound and banged it home to give the visitors a 4-0 lead. Boedker was the teammate of Predators forwards Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk when the Kitchener Rangers won the 2008 Memorial Cup.

The Predators finally got on the board after Jordin Tootoo was called for an atrocious slashing penalty. Ryan Suter blasted a shot from the point and got it past goaltender Jason Labarbera for his first career shorthanded goal.

In the third period, Colin Wilson gave the Predators some life when he broke in with David Legwand on a 2-on-1. Legwand fed the puck over to a breaking Wilson who blew a shot past Labarbera to cut the Coyotes lead to two.

Despite Wilson’s encouraging goal and a later power play, Nashville couldn’t muster any more offense and surrendered an empty net goal for the final nail in the coffin.

The Preds will try and rebound on Saturday night when the New Jersey Devils come to town. It will be Nashville’s first Eastern Conference opponent of the young season and the Devils will be without goaltending legend Martin Brodeur. The all-time wins leader suffered an arm injury in the first period of tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Expect Johan “Moose” Hedberg to get the start.

Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.

LEFTOVER THOUGHTS:
* As solid as defenseman Jack Hillen was in the pre-season he’s been the opposite in the first two games. So much so that he was scratched in favor of rookie Mattias Ekholm tonight.
* Ekholm wasn’t the only Predator making his debut tonight as summer free agent signee Niclas Bergfors and recent waiver pick-up Brian McGrattan were also seeing his first action.
* Bergfors had some nice moments offensively but was terrible defensively. Head Coach Barry Trotz said “there was nothing special there” in reference to Bergfors.
* Ekholm looked lost in the early stages of the contest. While Rinne was handling the puck, he gave up his forechecker and made an ill-timed line change. Then, on his next shift, he joined the rush unnecessarily.
* The first two Coyotes goals came from the same area of the ice.
* The “Team USA” line of Legwand, Wilson and Craig Smith only last two and a half games. Smith found himself on a line with Blake Geoffrion and Cal O’Reilly toward the end of the game. Sergei Kostitsyn took Smith’s place on the main line.
* Going into Friday night’s games, Legwand leads the league in scoring with seven points.
* Legwand may have had two assists and received third star of the game honors but the original Predator was on the ice for every goal against except Boedker’s tally in the second period.
* Rinne only had to make two stops in the final frame.
* Neither power play converted tonight.
* Coyotes Defenseman Rostislav Klesla was a plus-4 and, according to Columbus Dispatch beat writer Aaron Portzline, was on the winning side of a game in Nashville for the first time since April 3, 2006.
* Trotz said that there’s “an outside chance” Patric Hornqvist plays on Saturday.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:37 left in regulation):
1) David Schlemko (PHX)
2) Mikkel Boedker (PHX)
3) Ryan Suter (NSH)

THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1) David Schlemko (PHX)
2) Lauri Korpikoski (PHX)
3) David Legwand (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // section303.com