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New-look Predators continue strong start to season

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Nashville is still finding its new direction, but they are looking good while doing so.

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The Saturday night horde in Bridgestone Arena could not wait to get their first crack at the budding Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars rivalry. They wanted to boo Jason Spezza for his summer snub. They wanted indulge in the inexplicable hatred the Texas franchise has created in this city. But most of all, they wanted to see if the Predators could maintain the fast-paced game they saw Thursday night.

Both teams made several key moves during the offseason, but one is more heavily favored for success by pundits around the NHL. For Nashville, it wasn't just about the crucial two points in a divisional game, it was about showing they could hang with a team who's supposed to be better.

It may not have started with the hype that preceded it, but it definitely finished with a fervor if you were a fan of the team wearing gold.

Paul Gaustad notched a goal and an assist (and a fight), helping his team to a 4-1 victory over their Central division rivals. Eric Nystrom and Shea Weber also tallied in the contest, with Roman Josi potting the empty netter.

The game started sluggishly, being played seemingly only in the neutral zone with no team getting a firm grasp on the game. Passes wouldn't connect, guys were falling down, no one was really getting any good shots off.

"I don't know if it was sluggish," Gaustad said after the game. "I think it was just a 50/50 period where we kept just going back at each other. We kinda dictated a little bit more in the second period and took control of the puck, so the first period was back and forth and I think it was kinda feeling each other out a little bit."

It wasn't until Dallas got on the board (due to some careless play in the Predators' zone) that the game really opened up. James Neal intercepted a pass from Cody Eakin, but lost control of the puck immediately after. Ryan Garbutt gathered it up and sent it toward the net, where it eventually found Antoine Roussel, who put the puck in off Ryan Ellis' skate.

Nashville took control after that.

After dominating most of the second period, it appeared that the Preds were about to go to the second intermission down 1-0 for the second time in two games. The captain had other ideas. Shea Weber teed one up from the point to tie the game, thanks to a pass from Filip Forsberg. The goal put evidence on the score sheet of the second line's strong play all game. The Predators went on to score three times in the last frame, including two goals just over a minute apart.

Craig Smith downplayed his line's contributions, opting to credit Gaustad and Nystrom for their play, and deservedly so. However, when asked about the general feel of the team so far, he confirmed what fans have noticed from afar.

"There's a little more energy in the room, some excitement and new faces. We've got a kind of new aura about the team we're excited about, and we're exited about our new system. Everything's a little different. We're having fun with it and it's showing."

Expectations must be tempered, though. Especially after only two games. However, there's no denying the electricity surrounding Broadway this week, which is bound to continue if the Predators can keep this type of hockey going.

Win or lose, this is a brand new Predators team.

Play of the Game

The Preds left Tyler Seguin (nearly invisible the entire night) all alone and he was open to fire home a sure goal, but Shea Weber got in the way. Our hero.

(via @myregularface)

Author's Most Regretful Tweet of the Game

While in the offensive zone, Gaustad was about in the middle of the left face-off circle and fired a shot a million feet wide of the net. It prompted this astute observation:

Literally as I hit enter the goal horn blared.

Don't worry, I got called out:

Hey, I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em