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Smith shines in home debut; Preds beat Caps…

The Nashville Predators have now played five pre-season games so far.

And they’ve won four of them.

The Washington Capitals visited Bridgestone Arena and left as 4-1 losers in front of 13,437.

The two best goaltenders in the Nashville’s franchise history squared off against one another in this contest. Pekka Rinne, the only Vezina Trophy nominee in franchise history, out dueled Tomas Vokoun, the club’s all-time winningest goalie. Yes, it’s pre-season but each goalie went the distance in the contest and it was great to see both together.

Vokoun finished with 23 saves while Rinne allowed only a single goal on 24 Washington shots.

Highly touted prospect Craig Smith just flat out looked like he belonged. Skating alongside Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat — not to mention numerous shifts on the power play — the former Wisconsin Badger was given every opportunity to succeed tonight. And he did, collecting two assists and leading all skaters with five shots.

If Smith continues this kind of production, he’ll force the coaching staff and front office to make an unheard of decision: let a player bypass Milwaukee en route to Music City.

After Washington opened the scoring on a goal by Mathieu Perreault, the Preds answered with a nice tally by Colin Wilson. The Boston University Terrier’s third goal of the pre-season came as a glove-side wrist shot that was perfectly placed under the cross bar.

In the second period, Jordin Tootoo sent a nice centering pass to Matt Halischuk who was waiting in front of Vokoun. Halischuk made no mistake and promptly gave the Predators the lead.

Shortly thereafter, Craig Smith waited out a Capitals defender and got Martin Erat the puck behind the Washington net. Erat found a breaking Shea Weber for the third goal of the night for the home team.

Cal O’Reilly would finish off the scoring after putting a perfect Weber pass through Vokoun’s legs while on one knee.

The Preds will now field a team of veterans and roster-hopefuls on Friday night against the Jets. It will be the franchise’s first trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba as the Jets recently located from Atlanta, Georgia. While it’s the second NHL franchise for the city of Winnipeg, the Nashville organization wasn’t in existence before their move to Phoenix, Arizona.

Puck drops in Head Coach Barry Trotz’s home town at 6:30pm. The game will not be broadcast locally on 102.5 The Game but will be available via a live stream on Sports Radio 1290’s website.

* Other than his toe pick that lead to the first Washington goal, Mattias Ekholm played a real solid game tonight.
* Jack Hillen, a veteran blueliner auditioning for one of the three open defense spots, really impressed.
* Speaking of defensemen trying to make the NHL squad, Ryan Ellis was not in the lineup tonight. A tell tale sign he’ll start in Milwaukee?
* Hillen and Ryan Suter were the only Preds to register a plus-2 rating.
* Prospect Gabriel Bourque may not have shown up on the score sheet, and may have been a minus-1, but Trotz praised him after the game using the phrase “I’m very happy with him. Every time he’s on the ice something happens.”
* After the game, the Predators assigned goaltender Jeremy Smith to the Milwaukee Admirals.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 6:49 remaining in the third period):
1. Colin Wilson (NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3. Craig Smith (NSH)

1. Colin Wilson (NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3. Matt Halischuk (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //

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