Niederreiter scores in debut, Predators top Sharks in Prague

PRAGUE (AP) — The Predators’ new additions made a quick impact in the NHL’s first regular-season game.

Nino Niederreiter scored his debut goal for Nashville, which beat the San Jose Sharks 4-1 in the Czech capital on Friday night.

Kiefer Sherwood, another newcomer, became the first player to score this season, putting Nashville on top 1:01 into the game. Eeli Tolvanen also scored and Matt Duchene finished it off with an empty-netter.

“All of the new guys to our team obviously contributed a lot,” coach John Hynes said. “The style, the game they played really fits the identity we want to play.”

The teams will play again on Saturday at Prague’s O2 Arena as part of the league’s return to Europe for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tomas Hertl scored for San Jose in the first period, delighting the roaring crowd of 16,648 in his hometown. Tolvanen’s goal at 1:24 of the second put the Predators ahead to stay.

The Predators outshot the Sharks 32-31 while Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros stopped 30 shots.

Niederreiter and defenseman Ryan McDonagh were key offseason additions for the Predators, who are hoping to continue a run of eight straight playoff berths. That’s tied with Washington for the second-longest active streak in the league.

Niederreiter made it 3-1 late in the second period with his a one-timer off a feed from Dante Fabbro.

“To be honest, this trip has been very easy for all the new guys,” Niederreiter said. “We glued together very well. I mean they’re very welcoming, so I think it’s a big reason why we clicked on the ice.”

Sherwood scored on a rebound past goaltender James Reimer, who finished with 28 saves.

The 28-year-old Hertl, who recently signed a $65.1 million, eight-year contract to remain with San Jose, picked up a feed from Timo Meier and found the roof of the net just 6 seconds after a Sharks power play ended.

“It was a pretty special moment, obviously,” new San Jose coach David Quinn said. “We were a little bit inspired by that and we played better after that.”

Quinn was hired after the Sharks missed the NHL playoffs for a third straight season.

“I like some of the things we were doing but once they made it 3 to 1, I really thought there was a huge disparity in the way they played compared to the way we played,” Quinn said.

The Sharks converted on just 19% of power plays last season, and they struggled again on Friday, going 0 for 4 with the man advantage. Nashville also came up empty on four power plays.

ACROSS THE POND HOCKEY

This is the ninth season the NHL has played games in Europe, where it hopes to connect with fans in hockey-mad countries including the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland.

Nashville played in Europe for the first time. The Predators were set to open the 2020-21 season in Prague against the Boston Bruins before the pandemic scrapped those plans.

The Sharks have contested four previous games outside North America. They faced the Columbus Blue Jackets twice in Stockholm and played two games against the Calgary Flames in Tokyo in 1998.

Friday’s opener was the first NHL game in Europe since the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres faced off in Stockholm on Nov. 9, 2019.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 4, 2019 were the last NHL teams to play in Prague.

The league’s 2022 Global Series will conclude in Tampere, Finland, where the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche will face the Blue Jackets on Nov. 4-5.

NOTES

Friday’s matchup was the 29th regular-season game played in Europe and the sixth in Prague. … Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Friday the schedule for next year’s games in Europe will be announced in “a relatively near future.”

UP NEXT

The teams complete the series on Saturday night.

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