Jones scores first NHL goal in Predators win

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Throughout the preseason, Nashville Predators rookie defenseman Seth Jones displayed a rocket slap shot, a keen intelligence on power plays and slick hands that allowed him to corral crisp passes that others might mishandle, according to teammate Rich Clune.

Jones displayed all three attributes on a second-period goal -- the first of his promising NHL career -- to open the scoring on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators (2-3-0) used that goal along with goals from left winger Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Ryan Ellis to rally from a 2-1 deficit and defeat the New York Islanders 3-2 in the first meeting between the teams in more than a year.

Jones, the son of former NBA forward Popeye Jones, received a cross-ice pass from center David Legwand, paused for an instant and fired a booming shot from the left circle that beat an extended Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov to the stick side. Jones was greeted with a hug by All-Star defenseman Shea Weber after the power play goal at 1:03 of the second period.

"It was really nice to help the team and then we won the game, which was the most important" Jones said.

The Islanders responded with two goals in a four-minute stretch that were both orchestrated by right winger Kyle Okposo.

Midway through the period, Okposo stole the puck from Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm along the left boards on a forecheck and spotted an open Frans Nielsen trailing the play. Nielsen gathered it and fired a shot past the glove of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne at 12:39.

Minutes later, the Islanders (2-2-1) took the lead when Okposo received a pass from defenseman Brian Strait and deked two Predators. The former 2006 first-round pick alertly spotted center John Tavares, who broke toward the net. The puck briefly caromed off the stick of a diving Weber before Tavares gathered the deflection and poked it past Rinne.

"He looks a little bit like the guy we saw in the playoffs last year," said Nielsen of Okposo. "He looks real strong with the puck, he's making plays and he's aggressive toward the net. When Kyle is confident like that it's going to help us win a lot of games."

Nashville tied the score at 2 late in the second period on a breakaway goal by Hornqvist, his first of the year. Hornqvist received a pass off the right boards from center Colin Wilson, skated past Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnosky and fired a shot past Nabokov into the right side netting.

"That was a big goal for them with a minute left in the second," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "The first and last minutes of a period are crucial."

The Predators took the lead for good at 3:23 of the third period when Ellis beat Nabokov with a high, hard shot from the blue line. While Ellis entered the game with only five goals in 66 career games, he ended his junior career with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League as the franchise's all-time leading point scorer among defensemen.

Ellis said that the deep blast, which deflected off an Islanders' defender, reminded him of a handful of goals he had as a junior.

"Not many go in like that, it's nice to catch a guy off-guard," Ellis said. "For a goalie it's hard to read. If you ask any of our goalies tips are definitely hard to stop."

Rinne finished with 14 saves in the victory and Nabokov had 28 saves for the Islanders, who lost two straight games for the first time this season.

Following Thursday night's 4-0 loss to Toronto, the Predators came into Saturday night's game tied with the Rangers for 27th in the league in goals scored per game (1.50).

"The other night we couldn't buy a goal even when had screens and traffic," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "Tonight we had traffic and they were going in."

NOTES: Capuano appeared in his 200th career game with the Islanders and joined Al Arbour as the only coaches in franchise history to serve on the bench in at least 200 games with the team. Arbour ranks second in NHL history behind Scotty Bowman in career wins (782) and games coached (1,607). ... After serving 15 minutes in the penalty box in loss to Toronto on Thursday, Predators C Mike Fisher entered the game with a team-high 19 penalty minutes. It had been more than three seasons since Fisher spent as much time in the penalty box (15 at Buffalo on March 26, 2010) in a regular season game. The veteran center received a penalty for elbowing early in the second period. ... The Predators' penalty kill unit is struggling early in the season. Through four games, Nashville and Winnipeg were tied for a league-high six goals allowed on power plays. The Predators allowed the six power play goals on 17 shots (64.7 percent -- 28th). ... Nabokov returned to the lineup Saturday after being rested in Friday's 3-2 loss to Chicago. Nabokov started each of the Islanders' first three games of the season. Last season, the 38-year-old played on consecutive nights only twice in 41 regular-season starts.
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