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Mason leads Preds to first win of season

There was a lot of build-up heading into Tuesday night’s game between the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild. All of the attention was on Ryan Suter playing against his former team for the first time, but Nashville’s backup goaltender Chris Mason was the real star of the show on Tuesday night.

Mason made 29 saves on 30 shots to lead the Predators to a 3-1 victory. It was Mason’s season debut after Pekka Rinne had played in Nashville’s first two games of the season, which both ended in shootout losses. Mason made several big saves from point-blank range and kept the Predators afloat in the first period when they were being out-played early in the period.

Nashville fell behind 6:02 into the game when Dany Heatley wristed a shot that went off of Kevin Klein’s glove and into the net. That would be the last goal that Minnesota would score in the game. Nick Spaling tied the game for the Predators later in the first period and the teams traded chances from there.

Martin Erat finally broke the tie at 11:45 of the third period on a strange play. Erat found himself in a foot race with Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom for a loose puck heading into the Wild zone. Backstrom beat Erat to the puck and tried to clear it, but Erat knocked it down and was able to coast around Backstrom and backhand the puck into the empty net. David Legwand added a power play goal in the closing seconds of the third to secure the win for the Predators.

Suter ended the game with a minus-2 rating and didn’t really have much impact on the game in a negative or positive way. Gabriel Bourque ended the night with 14:15 of ice time in his season debut with Nashville and looked pretty sharp on a line with Spaling and Matt Halischuk.

This game was a perfect example of why the Predators brought Mason in this season. He’s a veteran goaltender that can win games when Rinne needs to be rested. Mason was particularly spectacular considering he hasn’t played in a game since April 5 of last year. It was a big win for the Predators, who will now travel to St. Louis for another contest with the Blues on Thursday night.

Five things about tonight’s game…

- Gabriel Bourque was impressive in his return to the lineup. He was buzzing around the ice all night long and seemed to have instant chemistry with Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk. His speed is a valuable asset for the Predators.

- Kevin Klein played a great game for the Predators. He was creating chances offensively and made a great poke check on Zach Parise that stopped a scoring chance for the Wild. Klein and his defensive partner Scott Hannan are going to be a crucial defensive pairing for the Predators this season, and they both logged over 20 minutes of ice time.

- Rich Clune tried to make his presence felt early in the game once again when he got in a fight with Zenon Kenopka. It was a decent scrap and neither player played much in the game after that.

- Sergei Kostisyn had one shot on goal in the previous two games and only had two shots on goal against Minnesota. He’s shown that he can be an effective shooter when he decides to pull the trigger. He’s got to shoot the puck more often as the season progresses.

- The Predators are now 9-1-1 in their last 11 games when Nick Spaling scores a goal. Spaling was able to put in a rebound from right in front of the net after a shot from the point by Klein found its way through traffic. A win seems to be all but automatic when Spaling puts one in the back of the net.

Three stars of tonight’s game…

1. Chris Mason, NSH… Mason stopped 29 of 30 shots and made a few spectacular saves to preserve the lead for the Predators. He had good lateral movement through the crease and looked very sharp.

2. Martin Erat, NSH… Erat created several chances and scored the game-winning goal for the Predators. He led Nashville with five shots on goal and was strong on the puck.

3. Nick Spaling, NSH…Spaling had a goal and an assist and was the leading point producer for the Predators. He made a beautiful pass to David Legwand for Nashville’s third goal.

Highlights…

 
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