PRAGUE (AP)Nino Niederreiter didn’t waste time to prove his class.
The forward scored three goals in two games and the Nashville Predators rallied to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Saturday for a sweep of their two NHL regular-season-opening games in the Czech capital.
Niederreiter completed a rally for the Predators just 12 seconds after he returned to the ice from the penalty box with 7:47 to go in the second period in front of a crowd of 17,023 at Prague’s O2 Arena. He wristed a shot past Sharks goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen from the right circle after receiving a pass from Eeli Tolvanen.
”Obviously, the most important thing is that we won,” Niederreiter said. ”But it feels great to be able to contribute to the team.”
Niederreiter scored his first on a rebound 4:35 in the second period to tie the game at 1-all.
”Two huge goals for our team and I’m definitely happy we won at the end,” he said.
Filip Forsberg also scored for the Predators.
Luke Kunin and captain Logan Couture had a goal each and Mario Ferraro had two assists for the Sharks, who outshot the Predators 33-18.
”The most important things is winning and we found the way to win the game,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. ”Now, you can draw some lessons out of that”.
Sharks coach David Quinn sounded positive despite coming home empty- handed from the long trip.
”I liked a lot of our game tonight, that was a big improvement from the last night,” he said. ”I’m proud of our guys. I think we competed hard. We clean up some of the things we weren’t good at last night.
”There’s a long long way to go, and I liked a lot of what I saw of our team.”
The Predators also beat the Sharks 4-1 on Friday, with Niederreiter scoring his debut goal for Nashville, who signed the Swiss-born right wing to a two-year, $8 million deal in July as one of their high-end additions. Another top-tier newcomer, defenseman Ryan McDonagh, had an assist for Nashville for the second straight game.
”He’s played fantastic,” Hynes said about Niederreiter. ”He’s the style of player we want to have.”
The games between the Predators and Sharks in Prague were part of the 2022 NHL Global Series. They marked the return of the NHL to Europe for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
Kunin, who was acquired by the Sharks from the Predators in the offseason, scored a power-play goal to put the Sharks ahead. He buried a rebound after Nashville goaltender Kevin Lankinen blocked his first close range attempt with his left pad with 5:36 remaining in the opening period.
After Niederreiter’s first, Couture needed just 10 seconds to give the Sharks the lead again, scoring on a one-timer from the slot after a feed from Steven Lorents.
Forsberg scored less than 2 minutes later, picking up a rebound before skating around the goal and slipping the puck in.
The Sharks pulled Kahkonen for an extra attacker towards the end, but the Predators held firm.
”We had some big stops at key times, which is what you need,” Hynes said, crediting Lankinen, another new addition for the Predators, who stopped 31 shots.
The 2022 Global Series will be completed in Tampere, Finland, where the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche will face the Columbus Blue Jackets in another pair of regular-season games on Nov. 4-5.
It is the ninth season that the NHL has returned to Europe as part of its efforts to grow the local fan base in hockey-mad countries like the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and others.
In North America, the regular season continues on Tuesday when the New York Rangers host the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vegas Golden Knights face the Los Angeles Kings.
NOTES: Saturday’s was the 30th NHL regular-season game played in Europe and the seventh in Prague. Overall, it was the 36th regular-season game that the NHL has staged outside North America in six different countries and eight cities. … Former NHL great Jaromir Jagr, who is yet to retire at age 50, dropped the ceremonial puck ahead of the game.
The Predators host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
The Sharks host the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.
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